Regaining Movement: How Distraction Arthroplasty Improves Joint Function and Mobility

Arthritis and joint injuries can significantly limit your mobility and daily activities. Traditional joint surgeries often involve removing or fusing the damaged joint. But what if there was a way to heal the joint itself and restore its natural function? Distraction arthroplasty offers a promising solution.

What is Distraction Arthroplasty? 

Distraction arthroplasty is a relatively new surgical technique that aims to regenerate damaged joint surfaces. Unlike traditional joint replacement, it focuses on preserving the joint itself. Surgeons achieve this by slowly separating the joint surfaces with an external fixator, a metal frame attached to the bones with pins and wires. This gradual separation stimulates the body to grow new cartilage and bone tissue within the joint space.

Benefits for Joint Function and Mobility

Distraction arthroplasty offers several advantages compared to traditional joint surgeries:

  • Joint Preservation: This surgery prioritizes saving the natural joint, potentially delaying or even avoiding the need for a total joint replacement later in life.
  • Improved Mobility: Studies have shown significant improvements in joint range of motion after distraction arthroplasty. This allows for greater flexibility and pain-free movement.
  • Pain Relief: By regenerating damaged cartilage, the surgery addresses the root cause of pain, leading to significant pain reduction.
  • Faster Recovery: Compared to traditional joint replacements, distraction arthroplasty often has a shorter recovery time, allowing patients to return to daily activities sooner.

Who is a Candidate for Distraction Arthroplasty?

This surgery is typically considered for younger, active patients with:

  • Post-traumatic arthritis: Arthritis that develops after a joint injury.



  • Early-stage osteoarthritis: Mild to moderate degeneration of the joint cartilage.



  • Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disease that affects the joints.

Things to Consider

Distraction arthroplasty is a complex procedure, and it’s important to discuss the potential risks and benefits with your doctor. These may include:

  • Lengthy Procedure: The surgery itself might be longer than some traditional joint replacements.

  • External Fixator: You will need to wear an external fixator for several weeks or months, which can be cumbersome and limit some activities.

  • Stiffness: Regaining full range of motion may require physical therapy after the fixator is removed.

Looking Forward

Distraction arthroplasty is a promising advancement in joint surgery. As research continues, this technique may become a more widely used option for patients seeking to restore joint function and mobility. If you’re struggling with joint pain and limited movement, talk to your doctor about whether distraction arthroplasty could be a good fit for you.

For a functional analysis on distraction arthroplasty, read this article from the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider for any questions or concerns regarding your individual health.

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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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