Arthritis is inflammation of a joint. This is a progressive process, which occurs when the smooth cartilage that allows free movement of a joint is lost.

Ankle arthritis is considerably less common than knee or hip arthritis.
The most common cause is post traumatic after ankle fractures or recurrent ankle instability. There are other causes such as rheumatoid arthritis, primary osteoarthritis and haemophilia.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of ankle arthritis depend on how severe it is.
Symptoms can be intermittent.

  • Pain, often worse on uneven ground
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness, walking with foot turned out
  • Impingement from bony spurs causing sharp catching pain
  • Progressive deformity

What is the non-surgical treatment?

  • Simple pain relief
  • Weight loss
  • Chondroitin, glucosamine, fish oil
  • Activity modification
  • Steroid injection in selected cases
  • Orthotics:
    • Heel raise to reduce impingement
    • Ankle brace for support
    • Rocker sole shoe modification which allows better mobility with out motion occurring through the ankle.
    • Ankle foot orthosis in severe arthritis
Ankle arthritis
Ankle arthritis

What is the surgical treatment?

Surgical treatment for ankle arthritis is dependent on severity of arthritis, symptoms and patient characteristics such as age and functional demands.

Mild arthritis

  • Arthroscopic debridement:
    • Removal of bony spurs and loose cartilage.
    • 6 -12 weeks – back to most activities
    • 70% success dependent on severity
    • Can accelerate arthritis and symptoms can become worse
    • Does not “cure” arthritis
    • Risks – infection, nerve injury, stiffness, incomplete symptom relief, blood clots to the leg and anaesthetic problems.

Severe arthritis

  • Ankle Fusion
  • Ankle Replacement

Fusion surgery Info-sheet
Replacement Surgery Info-sheet