Ankle Arthritis

Ankle Arthritis – Everything You Need To Know – Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

The patient will have longstanding global pain that is inside the ankle.  The patient will have antalgic gait with swelling of the ankle and decreased ankle motion.  You want to check the sensation.  Lack of sensation with Simmons–Weinstein 5.07 monofilament testing is important because insensate patients are poor candidates for ankle joint replacement.  The patient will usually have a trial of nonsurgical treatment first.

  •          Anti-inflammatory medication
  •         Activity modification
  •         Ankle orthosis/bracing
  •          Injections

Treatment Orthosis

·       Single rocker sole shoe modification and custom Arizona brace.  You may give the patient a cane.

With failed conservative treatment, the patient may need arthrodesis of the ankle, which is fusion of the ankle, or an ankle replacement.  If you are going to do arthrodesis of the ankle, it will be arthrodesis of the tibiotalar joint.  In ankle arthrodesis, the fixation can be done by multiple techniques.  The whole idea is to obtain rigid fixation.  You can use plates, screws, or combination of both.

How to you position arthrodesis?

·         Neutral flexion

·         The gastroc recession or TAL may be needed if we cannot achieve neutral dorsiflexion.  From 0–5 hindfoot valgus when 5–10 external rotation of the foot.


·         80% will have difficulty on even ground.

·         75% will have difficulty with stairs.

If you find a person with an ankle fusion that when they walk, they have knee hyperextension when the heel comes off the ground during the stance phase, then that person’s ankle is fused and some plantar flexion.  The plantar flexion position will create forced recurvatum of the knee.  The ankle should be fused in neutral flexion.  If the person has arthritis of the ankle joint and the subtalar joint, then you will do tibiocalcaneal arthrodesis.  Some people elect to go for total ankle replacement.

What are the contraindications for total ankle replacement?

  •  Severe deformity
  • Charcot joint
  • Avascular necrosis of the talus
  • Soft tissue compromise
  • Active ankle infection

What is the relative contraindication for ankle joint replacement?

  • Ligament instability
  • Diabetes
  •  Smoking
  •  Osteoporosis
  • Morbid obesity

When do you do distraction arthroplasty?

            You do this in younger patients with some motion and less severe joint destruction.

Arthritis of the ankle can be osteoarthritis, posttraumatic arthritis, or inflammatory arthritis as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.  Posttraumatic arthritis accounts for 80% of all ankle arthritis.  The primary osteoarthritis is about 10% only.  Pain with weightbearing, swelling, decreased range of motion compared to the other side, and you will be able to see the arthritis on the x-ray.  Ankle arthrodesis will be done in younger patients with a high demand, or if the patient has comorbidities such as diabetes and obesity.  10 years after ankle arthrodesis, 50% of the patients will have subtalar arthritis.  Some of the patients may get nonunion. Revision of the nonunion can lead to fusion in about 85%.  A young, active worker is a contraindication to total ankle arthroplasty.  You will do the arthrodesis and end-stage ankle arthritis and the union rate is about 90%.  The arthrodesis gives us a reliable pain control but will also give us adjacent joint arthritis.  The entire foot and the patient’s comorbidities must be evaluated to choose the proper surgical technique.  Total ankle arthroplasty has superior gait mechanics compared to ankle arthrodesis.  Ankle arthrodesis is done 6 times more than a total ankle replacement.  If you have an elderly patient with no comorbidities and you want to do a motion preserving procedure, then this would be total ankle arthroplasty.  Revision of total ankle occurs due to loosening of the implant or subsidence, especially in patients less than 55 years old.  In a patient with rheumatoid arthritis with end-stage arthritis, total ankle may be a reasonable option.  In older patients with low demand, you will give total ankle arthroplasty.  In younger, active patients he will do a fusion.  The total ankle arthroplasty is gaining a lot of popularity.  For patients with nonunion, you need to evaluate for infection and metabolic bone disease.  You may also need a CT scan.  Preservation of the fibula can help the potential conversion to a total ankle at a later date.  When you compare patient with an ankle prosthesis to a patient with thin ankle fusion, there is more complication rate and revision rate for a patient with total ankle and more increased wound complications for people with rheumatoid arthritis.  If you are in doubt, use ankle arthrodesis.

u Need To Know — Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: