Distraction Ankle Arthroplasty Offered in Baltimore at Mercy Medical Center

The foot and ankle surgeons at The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy in Baltimore are experts at diagnosing and treating ankle arthritis. Our top rated surgeons are skilled in performing distraction ankle arthroplasty for patients suffering from ankle arthritis pain. 

What is Distraction Ankle Arthroplasty?

Distraction ankle arthroplasty is a treatment option for ankle arthritis. A cage is put on the leg in order to stretch the ankle apart. By stretching the ankle apart by even a small amount, the cartilage cells of the ankle are rested and may start to form the critical type of cartilage required to correctly lubricate the joint.

It has been proven both in the laboratory and with patients that when the joint is stretched and weight is applied to the leg at the same time that the cartilage improves. This has a lot to do with the biology of the cartilage cells. 

How is a Distraction Ankle Arthroplasty performed?

Prior to performing a distraction ankle arthroplasty, the ankle joint first needs to be cleaned out with a minor surgery called arthroscopy where small loose fragments, bone spurs and inflamed tissue inside the ankle are removed.

Either during the arthroscopy or a few weeks later, the cage (called an external fixator) is applied to the leg. This circular cage or a set of rings on the foot and leg allows the ankle to be stretched apart. The ankle is stretched only about 5mm (less than a quarter of an inch). The fixator device is left on the ankle for about 10 weeks.

During the time that the external fixator is on the ankle, the patient is encouraged to walk on the leg as much as possible to stimulate the cartilage. Initially, this is painful, but by about one week is tolerated quite well. Once the fixator is removed, physical therapy and exercises are very important to try to regain as much movement of the ankle as possible.

The ankle remains quite uncomfortable for about six months, but by one year, 80% of patients notice a significant improvement in pain in the ankle. 

Who should receive a Distraction Ankle Arthroplasty?

The ideal patient for a distraction ankle arthroplasty is someone with:

  • Advanced ankle arthritis
  • Good alignment of the foot under the leg
  • Not much deformity of the ankle

A total ankle replacement most likely would be recommended for patients over the age of 50.

When is the Distraction Ankle Arthroplasty the best option?

A distraction ankle arthroplasty is a one of the best treatment options when a fusion of the ankle joint in a younger patient is trying to be avoided.

The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy includes a top rated team of surgeons who are dedicated to advanced treatments of common and complex foot and ankle disorders.