Surgical reconstruction is a life changer for people with end-stage ankle arthritis, a painful condition that limits patients’ abilities to go up and down stairs, get out of a car and even walk. Now researchers from The Rothman Orthopedic Institute at Jefferson Health demonstrate that surgical reconstruction boosts patients’ range of motion by more than 60 percent and that translates to significantly less pain and better function completing everyday activities with improvement continuing for at least the first two years following surgery.

The findings will enable surgeons to not only best inform patients about what improvements to expect as they recover during the first two years after surgery and but also what the surgical repair can do for them-;namely, provide a superior quality of life.

“They’re really dramatically better than they were before surgery on average,” said Steven Raikin, MD, Director of Foot and Ankle Service at the Rothman Orthopedic Institute at Jefferson Health and professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Jefferson Medical College, who published the work September 5th in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

Traumatic injury or repeated sprains wear down cartilage that usually cushions the ankle joint. Bone-on-bone grinding and arthritis can occur as the protective buffer erodes away. As a result, patients with ankle arthritis have limited range of motion in their ankle. Together with debilitating pain, the condition prevents patients from doing everyday activities as simple as getting up from a chair. When non-surgical options such as medications, steroid injections or bracing have failed, surgery becomes the only option.

Total ankle arthroplasty, or a complete surgical replacement of the ankle joint, has only become a viable choice in the last decade. With new methods and updated devices, results from total ankle arthroplasty appear effective, but patients wanted to know more about the recovery period.

“The whole idea was to try to create expectation parameters for patients getting ankle replacements at different time periods in the first two years following surgery,” he said.

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