Ankle Arthritis and Ankle Replacement

Dr. A. Brian Thomson

Ankle arthritis is a degenerative joint process involving the ankle joint that leads to stiffness and pain with exercise and activities of daily life. It can be caused by prior trauma or injury, leg deformity, chronic instability, and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout. Arthritis affects millions of US citizens every year. Although not as common, ankle arthritis has been shown to be just as debilitating as hip or knee arthritis1.

There are several conservative options for treating ankle arthritis. These options include exercise, braces, anti-inflammatory medications, and steroid injections to name a few. There are surgical options for patients who have tried different treatment options, but still have pain that limits their daily activities, sports, or quality of life.

Mild ankle arthritis can sometimes be treated surgically with ankle arthroscopy with debridement of inflammatory joint tissue or scar, coupled with removing bone spurs that may be blocking joint motion. For patients with more advanced ankle arthritis, an ankle fusion has traditionally been recommended. An ankle fusion can give excellent pain relief and improve a patient’s function. However, it does create stiffness in the joint which can be somewhat limiting for certain activities. This increased stiffness can also potentially lead to degenerative changes or arthritis in other joints of the foot near the ankle joint.

Ankle arthroplasty, or total ankle replacement, is another alternative for patients with moderate to severe ankle arthritis. Refinements in the technique of this surgery and improvements in the implants have led to greater success with ankle replacement and increased use of this procedure in the U.S. Hip and knee replacement has become the gold standard for the surgical treatment of hip and knee arthritis. Given the improved outcomes with ankle replacement, more patients are seeking out ankle replacement.

If you are suffering from chronic ankle pain, you can make an appointment to be evaluated by our foot and ankle specialists, Dr. Jeffrey Willers and Dr. A. Brian Thomson.

We will be glad to evaluate you and discuss the treatment options available to you for your ankle pain. Treatment recommendations are tailored to each patient’s specific condition and functional concerns.


Comparison of health-related quality of life between pateints with end-stage ankle and hip arthrosis. Glazebrook, M et al. JBJS 2008 Mar; 90(3) 499-505


Ankle Arthritis by footEducation
Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle by OrthoInfo

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