According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons an estimated 2 million Americans suffer from ankle osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease of the joint that causes cartilage to wear away. Until recently patients were forced to gradually give up their active lifestyles as the disease progressed and traditional treatments failed to control pain. However, advancements in ankle replacement technology are allowing patients to maintain a high quality of life by providing increased mobility. Patients with ankle osteoarthritis experience wearing and fraying of cartilage, the smooth, gliding surface covering the ends of bones. This results in inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joint. Osteoarthritis progresses slowly and the pain and stiffness it causes worsen over time.
For patients in the early stages of the disease, the first line of treatment includes shoe inserts, a removable cast, a brace, a walking cane, anti-inflammatory medication and cortisone shots injected directly into the arthritic joint. Physical therapy, weight management and nutritional supplements also work for some patients. For those with more advanced arthritis surgical options, such as arthroscopic surgery, which cleans the joint of foreign tissue, are generally helpful in the early stages of arthritis. Another surgical option is ankle fusion. Although it will relieve pain for some patients, it causes permanent loss of motion.