Total ankle replacement: Design evolution and results

Published online: Apr 27 2010

Alexander van den Heuvel, Saskia Van Bouwel, Greta Dereymaeker

From the University Hospital Antwerp, Belgium


The ankle joint has unique anatomical, biomechanical and cartilaginous structural characteristics that allow the joint to withstand the very high mechanical stresses and strains over years. Any minor changes to any of these features predispose the joint to osteoarthritis. Total ankle replacement (TAR) is evolving as an alternative to ankle arthrodesis for the treatment of end-stage ankle osteoarthritis. Initial implant designs from the early 1970s had unacceptably high failure and complication rates. As a result many orthopaedic surgeons have restricted the use of TAR in favour of ankle arthrodesis. Long term follow-up studies following ankle arthrodesis show risks of developing adjacent joint osteoarthritis. Therefore research towards a successful ankle replacement continues. Newer designs and longer-term outcome studies have renewed the interest in ankle joint replacement. We present an overview of the evolution, results and current concepts of total ankle replacement.