July 28, 2004 -- Total hip and knee replacements have transformed orthopaedic surgery. Yet repairing a bad ankle joint has long been a daunting challenge. Now, researchers report a promising step forward in the treatment of disabling ankle arthritis.
After decades of ankle implant failures, a unique prosthetic that offers better mobility is helping total ankle replacement become an encouraging choice for patients who have run out of options.
Total ankle replacement has been around since the 1970s, but the older prosthetics often malfunctioned and had to be removed. So patients usually faced a lifetime of disabling pain, often having to resort to ankle fusion, which completely restricts movement of the joint.
The Agility Total Ankle Implant acts as a hinge, allowing more range of movement.
For this study, University of Iowa orthopaedic surgeon Charles Saltzman, MD, examined 67 patients nine years after they received the Agility ankle implant. He found that the FDA-approved implant worked well in the long term. His study showed relatively low rates of arthritis in the area of the implant and low rates of repeated surgeries due to implant failures or surgery complications.
Overall, 90% of the patients reported decreased ankle pain and were satisfied with the procedure. Ankle X-rays revealed that fewer than 20% of patients had arthritis near the implant.
"The results of total ankle replacement are encouraging," says Saltzman in a news release. "The new failure rate is an 11% improvement from previous reports."
While the failure rate exceeds those of total hip and knee replacement surgeries, Saltzman says ankle replacement using the Agility implant is a much better option than fusion of the ankle bones.
The results of his study were presented at the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society's annual summer meeting.