Background: The improving survivorship of ankle replacements is making this an increasingly popular option in the treatment of ankle arthritis, rather than the established option of ankle fusion. The potential benefits of restoring movement, improving gait and protecting adjacent joints are persuasive arguments in favor of replacing rather than fusing the ankle joint.
Methods: Gait analysis was performed before and after ankle arthroplasty on 12 patients, and compared to 12 patients with a successful ankle arthrodesis and to a healthy control group of 12 people.
Results: Important differences between the arthrodesis and ankle replacement groups were demonstrated although neither restored normal movement or walking speed. Ankle arthrodesis resulted in a faster gait with a longer step length compared to replacement, although the timing of gait demonstrated greater asymmetry. The ankle replacement group had greater movement at the ankle, a symmetrical timing of gait and restored ground reaction force pattern.
Conclusion: The improved timing of gait would support the observation of a reduction in limp with ankle replacement though the gait is significantly slower. Longer term results are necessary to determine whether the improved movement and force transmission persists with time and protects adjacent articulations.