Why are Ankle Replacement Preferred Than Bone Fusions?

Ankle replacement surgery or arthroplasty helps in replacing damaged parts existing in any of your three bones that combine to make ankle joints.

Prosthetics or artificial joint parts which come in different sizes to fit different sized people are used by surgeons for replacing bones.

Ankle replacement surgery is carried out if your ankle joint has got severely damaged.  The various causes of ankle joint damage are as follows:

  • Infection
  • Bone fracture
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Arthritis due to any past ankle surgery
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

When articular surfaces of the ankle joint get damaged, two options are open – one is arthrodesis meaning fusion of bones and the other is the replacement of the damaged articular surfaces in the ankle joint with suitable prosthetic parts.

The later technology is termed ankle arthroplasty or ankle replacement and is widely preferred by patients.

Restoration of range of joint motions is the primary benefit in the ankle replacements when compared to arthrodesis, which was in vogue for a fairly long time.

The resurgence of ankle replacements started in the genesis of this decade, thanks to the latest emerging technologies, which are being practiced with better success rates when compared to the older ones.

Ankle replacements pose fewer problems compared to ankle fusion.

For ankle joint replacements, the indications include extreme pain, associated with osteoarthritis or loss of mobility and functioning because of injury or post-traumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankle osteoarthritis.

The surgery is a major one and the success rates are convincingly well. Yet, the surgery may lead to complications that may arise from the surgery itself or post-operative care.

Some illustrative complications are dislocation of the joint, rejection of the graft, general and urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and nerve damages, besides the normal risks, associated with surgeries of any other kind like strokes, heart attacks, embolism, etc.

The patients and their relatives are to be specifically warned of this. Rather the patient can withstand the pain and immovability.

You should avoid ankle replacement surgery if your physical condition is unhealthy like recovery from major illness/ surgery, worrying cardiac condition, or any kind of infection.

The joint can be ceramic or titanium or a compound.

Other than the normal post-operative care, it would require some days of stay in the hospitals, some weeks of weights off those joints, and fairly long periods of training for strength and endurance.

Cost-wise, it may not be that much costly, when compared to other kinds of surgeries; but still costlier, if you do not have sufficient coverage. If you have insurance, you can claim the eligible amounts from the insurer.

At present, there are methodologies for two components implants.

Mobile bearing three components (third component made of medical-grade polyethylene) ankle replacement systems are under study and also in clinical trials.

The total ankle replacements system by Bone Innovations (S.T.A.R.) had the approval of the FDA in the month of May 2009.