When patients suffer from end-stage arthritis of their ankle joint, life can be very difficult. Even taking a few steps or simply moving their ankle joint up and down can be agony and, in some cases, it may mean that ankle replacement is necessary.
How was ankle arthritis pain treated before?
Previously the patient only had one option and that was to fuse the ankle joint. This meant a permanent loss of function in the up/down movement of this joint. The benefit to the patient was that they were no longer in pain. This used to be tolerated by the patient because by the time they would contemplate such a major intervention they had lost a great deal of their movement anyway. We were thus turning a stiff painful ankle into a stiff pain-free ankle.
How has treatment of ankle arthritis evolved?
There is, however, a growing cohort of patients that suffer the pain of ankle arthritis but have maintained a good range of movement. Ankle replacements have been around for about 10-15 years but the early models were plagued by short life-spans and some even had catastrophic failures. Thankfully the bad ones have been withdrawn from the marketplace for some time now. Technology has come a long way since then and results including longevity are improving.
In the region, we have done a number of successful customised CT-guided ankle replacements. This is the latest cutting-edge technology available today. Because each patient is different, a one size fits all approach can result in poorer results. With this system, the ankle joint can be put in far more accurately and consistently than ever before.
How is 3D scanning used to create the ankle replacement?
It works by taking a CT scan of the patient’s lower leg. The scan is then sent to a lab in the US. Specially trained bioengineers then construct a 3D model of the patient’s ankle and using 3D printing technology construct the ankle and customised jigs specific for the patient in question. The surgeon then goes on the internet and decides exactly how the ankle needs to be aligned, where it needs to go and what ancillary procedures need to be done to ensure a perfect fit.
What are the benefits of 3D scanning in ankle replacement surgery?
A big part of the procedure is done online thus saving time in theatre and allowing the patient a shorter anaesthetic and quicker recovery. Risks of surgery are further reduced. A one-night stay is usually all that is required and some have even been done as day case procedures in the right patient. After two weeks full weight is allowed on the ankle and physiotherapy begins. Contrast this to the six weeks of non-weight bearing in a plaster cast for an ankle fusion and the advantages are clear.
If you are considering ankle replacement surgery then book now with one of our specialists.