Arthrodiastasis of the Ankle
Ankle joint distraction is a surgical alternative to fusion or replacement in patients with advanced ankle arthritis. Clinical experience shows that the majority of patients who have this procedure experience a progressive improvement of function and relief of pain that continues to improve with time.
The surgery involves placing pins in the leg and the foot and mechanically distracting (pulling apart) the joint surfaces to allow them a chance to heal. Usually an arthroscopy of the ankle is done at the same time to remove any spurs or fragments of debris in the joint. Candidates for this surgery are patients under 60 years old with ankle arthritis.
Older patients or those with an inflammatory form of arthritis (like rheumatoid disease) are treated with fusion or replacement, not distraction. After the distraction surgery, patients are admitted to the hospital for a few days and then allowed to go home putting weight on their foot with the help of crutches or a walker. Within a few weeks most patients can walk with their ankle distracted with little discomfort. After three months the fixator frame is removed and patients start a rehabilitation program to regain muscle strength and balance and improve function.