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Ankle replacement surgery offers patients less pain and better function, study finds

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Patients with advanced ankle arthritis can expect enhanced quality of life within six months of ankle replacement surgery, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Rothman Orthopedic Institute at Jefferson Health found that surgical reconstruction of the ankle joint boosts patients’ range of motion by more than 60%, leading to significantly less pain and better function when completing everyday activities. What’s more, the improvement continues for at least the first two years following surgery.

“They’re really dramatically better than they were before surgery on average,” said Dr Steven Raikin, director of Foot and Ankle Service at the Rothman Orthopedic Institute at Jefferson Health and professor of orthopaedic surgery at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.

Ankle replacement, also known as total ankle arthroplasty, is used by foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons to treat ankle arthritis when non-surgical options are no longer effective. The procedure aims to relieve pain while preserving ankle motion so the patient has less pain and better function during activity, explains the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.

For the study, Dr Raikin and colleagues assessed range of motion, pain levels and function completing everyday activities in 107 patients before total ankle arthroplasty surgery and then again at three months, six months, one year and two years after surgery.

On average, the procedure improved patients’ ankle range of motion in the sagittal plane by 66%, from a 20.7-degree angle before surgery to a peak of 34.3 degrees six months post-surgery.

Meanwhile, patients’ pain scores dropped from 74 on a 100-point scale to 15 and their ability to complete everyday tasks rose from 50 to 80 out of 100 over the two-year follow-up. These improvements correlated with enhanced ankle flexibility.

Ankle replacement gave patients “a dramatic improvement in range of motion and pain,” Dr Raikin concluded.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.