Ankle osteoarthritis is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the ankle joint. Traditional treatments like joint fusion can limit mobility. An alternative procedure called ankle distraction arthroplasty has been gaining some traction, but how well does it hold up in the long term? 

A recent study by Greenfield et al. (2019) investigated this very question. They conducted a survival analysis of ankle distraction arthroplasty for ankle osteoarthritis. Their findings suggest that this procedure may be a viable option for some patients. 

Key takeaways from the study: 

  • Ankle distraction arthroplasty showed promising results, with an 84% survival rate at 5 years. This is better than some previously reported outcomes. 
  • The study also identified factors that can influence the success of the procedure. Avascular necrosis of the talus (bone death) was associated with a lower survival rate. Additionally, sex may play a role, with the study suggesting potential gender differences in long-term outcomes. 

What this means for patients: 

Ankle distraction arthroplasty offers a potential option for preserving joint mobility in patients with ankle osteoarthritis. This study provides valuable data for surgeons and patients to consider when making treatment decisions. 

Important to note: 

  • This was a retrospective study, meaning researchers analyzed past data. More robust research designs are needed to confirm these findings. 
  • The study involved a relatively small group of patients. Larger studies are necessary to draw more definitive conclusions. 

Overall, this research suggests that ankle distraction arthroplasty may be a valuable tool for treating ankle osteoarthritis. However, more research is needed to solidify its place as a standard treatment option. 

ReferenceGreenfield, S., Matta, K. M., McCoy, T. H., Rozbruch, S. R., & Fragomen, A. (2019). Ankle distraction arthroplasty for ankle osteoarthritis: a survival analysis. Strategies in trauma and limb reconstruction, 14(2), 65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7376580/#:~:text=In%20a%20significantly%20larger%20series,and%2037%25%20within%205%20years


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional to discuss your individual treatment options.

Image Credits: healthline.com

“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos – the trees, the clouds, everything.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Statistically, osteoarthritis is the most prevalent joint condition. Induced by a multitude of root causes, it is ultimately one of those conditions that has a wealth of treatments ranging from the utilization of wholistic healing methods such as joint healing oils, or the administration of surgery to facilitate the healing or replacement of the joint. 

Joints are the union of two or more bones. As a mechanical unit, the free flow of the joint is facilitated by the natural lubricating agents known as cartilage. Cartilage is soft protective tissue that lines the exterior of the bone. Under the condition of osteoarthritis, the cartilage degenerates and exposes the bones to each other. The painful condition results in limited mobility of the patients. While the majority of osteoarthritis cases take place in older patients, who have reduced healing capabilities, athletes and active individuals who place stress on their joints, can also develop arthritis. If left untreated, arthritis can induce disability. 

Causes of Osteoarthritis

It was highlighted in the previous introduction that cartilage degeneration is what ultimately leads to the joint damage associated with osteoarthritis. Joint damage as a whole has several root causes. If you had an injury for instance that resulted in the dislocation of a joint, there can also be resultant joint damage that can also inflict symptoms of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis does have genetic links, so ensure that your family medical history is assessed, and you’ll be able to identify with your doctor’s help, if you or your family members are at risk of the condition.

The Science of Cartilage 

As a tough, flexible coating to the bone, when cartilage degenerates, the friction between the joint’s bones can cause the exposed surfaces to become jagged. Cartilage, with time and age, is not a naturally self healing mechanism, because there is limited blood supply to the area. Biologics however, is beginning to enable the facilitation of healing by introducing the appropriate growth factors that will enable the cartilage to rebuild. The symptoms that patients experience include: pain as an initial indicator of a joint issue. With inflammation, the joint will swell and tenderness be experienced. As the joints lose their flexibility, there will be stiffness experienced, often in the morning upon rising. Your orthopaedic surgeon will assess your condition and determine the best way for you to approach your treatment. With all health conditions, with time, you can actually initiate healing via the facilitation of the right internal chemistry. A good and proper diet, can reduce the internal inflammation that you experience. 


Osteoarthritis has the following five classifications:

Stage 0 – Normal 

Stage 1 – Minor 

Stage 2 – Mild 

Stage 3 – Moderate 

Stage 4 – Severe

Consult with your orthopaedic surgeon to identify what stage of the progression you are on, if you are diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Cartilage loss is most prevalent in the higher tiers of the osteoarthritis scale. You are also at risk of increases in swelling and inflammation, and joint instability. 


There are some conditions that take a long time to actually develop and diagnose. Osteoarthritis is one of those conditions. It is often during the periods of intense pain that one would be led to an orthopaedic specialist for the root cause of this discomfort. During your consultation, your orthopaedic surgeon will usually utilize a diagnostic tool such as an X-ray or an MRI image, in order to see the internal functions of the joint. For further details of your internal chemistry, blood tests, joint fluid tests and other tests can be conducted in order to eliminate additional root causes. From the surface, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis do have almost identical symptoms. The critical tests will provide your orthopaedic specialist with the decision making tools that will enable your condition to be diagnosed. 


Once you are diagnosed, the next phase of your health management is to ensure that the symptoms are kept at bay. If you’re at Stage 0 for instance, you will start your preventative treatments that will ensure that you don’t degenerate to Stage 1 etc. Initially, your orthopaedic surgeon will prescribe treatments such as over the counter medication, in order to start the pain management process, and to counter the joint discomfort. With the appropriate lifestyle changes, you can live a normal life. Coupled with gentle exercises such as walking and swimming, you can keep your joints mobile and functioning as close to their peak as possible. If you are overweight, via diet change or an exercise regime, you will benefit from losing weight. Excess weight on joints that are not at their peak, will only increase the joint pain. Where possible, utilize heat to warm the area, and facilitate blood flow to the aching joint. Natural remedies such as fish oil, glucosamine chondroitin and ginger have been found to improve the body’s healing capability. 

With a little due diligence, you will take the time to learn about your body and how it functions. Instead of worrying, you can control your health and allow your body to heal via the various available treatments. Everything in life, is a choice that you make in order to have the maximum longevity possible.


Osteoarthritis: https://www.healthline.com/health/osteoarthritis#oa-outlook

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Dr. Gordon Slater

Dr. Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions.

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Dr Gordon Slater is a highly-skilled surgeon specialising in foot and ankle conditions and sports injuries. Dr Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions. MIS  has many advantages including shorter operating times, reduced post-operative pain, reduced risk of infection, minimal scarring and better cosmetic outcomes.

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