Ankle arthritis is a very common condition that I treat. The ankle is unique in that primary ankle arthritis, the wear-and-tear arthritis, is very rare in the ankle. Ankle arthritis almost always develops from prior trauma to the ankle (an ankle fracture, or multiple ankle sprains) or malalignment of the foot or lower leg. The main treatment of ankle arthritis historically has been ankle fusion. In this procedure, the ankle bones are fused together (or cemented) with screws. This procedure is very successful in relieving ankle pain. In addition, contrary to popular belief, your ankle still moves up and down. Your normal ankle motion is due to a combination of your ankle joint (tibiotalar joint) and your transverse tarsal joint. Because we fuse just the tibiotalar joint, your transverse tarsal or hindfoot joint still moves up and down, giving an arc of motion in your ankle joint of about 20-30 degrees.
Ankle arthritis is one of the most common conditions we see here in the office. The conservative treatment of ankle arthritis includes using a brace, shoe modifications including using MBT type shoes, as well as injection therapy of either hyaluronic acid or cortisone. When conservative care fails and the patient’s pain becomes disabling or their function becomes limited, surgical intervention is offered.