Ankle arthrodesis, or ankle fusion can relieve pain, just like the total ankle joint replacement procedure. Total ankle replacement also relieves pain but the patients retain mobility in the joint.
Ankle fusion removes the cartilage damaged by arthritis and then surgically aligns the ankle at 90 degrees. The orthopaedist uses a plate, or screws to fuse the joint in place. Over time, the bones mend themselves together.
Fusing the ankle bone in place does cause patients to lose ankle mobility. This leads to changes in how these patients walk. Over time, this adds wear and tear in other parts of the body. One study showed 10 years after the ankle arthrodesis procedure, 30% of patients experienced major complications, 51% had continued pain, and 66% experienced degenerative joint disease.
In total ankle replacement the surgeon resurfaces the weight-bearing sections of the ankle joint where all the bones come together, replacing worn-out parts with a new artificial joint. This procedure is often recommended when, like in Geraldine’s case, there is severe ankle arthritis that has eroded the joint surface of the ankle. Pain develops, becomes constant, and worsens into a debilitating condition negatively affecting the life of the patient.
Conversely, total ankle replacement does not disrupt the gait pattern of the affected person. The goal of this type of joint replacement surgery is to provide reasonable mobility, lessen pain, restore physical alignment, and replace the movement of the ankle joint. One study showed 83% of patients reported functional improvement and 73% reported occasional pain or no pain at all. The average range of motion was 18 degrees.