Published on January 24, 2020

Ankle arthritis - How much do you know?

By Jessica Brewer, LMH Health

Arthritis pain affects millions of Americans every year. Many types of arthritis can alter our quality of life, with osteoarthritis being the most common form in the United States. You may have heard of rheumatoid arthritis as well, however, there is one type of arthritis that isn’t talked about as much – ankle arthritis.

Dr. John Galligan, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at LMH Health OrthoKansas, specializes in foot and ankle care. Though ankle arthritis is not as common as other more talked about arthritis conditions, this is one that can be quite devastating.

“There are thousands of joint procedures each day for hips and knees, but procedures for ankle arthritis are less common,” Dr. Galligan said. “That being said, it doesn’t make this topic any less important.”

John Galligan, MD

John Galligan, MD

Ankle arthritis most often develops from bad fractures, trauma from previous injuries, recurring sprains or an inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Galligan said that our ankles can handle wear and tear well, but cartilage can break down when recurring fractures and sprains are involved.

“If you are a person who has had multiple sprains and chronic instability, it would be wise to see an orthopedic surgeon to see if arthroscopy or tightening the ligaments would be appropriate,” Dr. Galligan said. “Addressing instability before joint damage occurs can help avoid ankle arthritis.”

Dr. Galligan says when a patient comes to him with ankle arthritis, it can be a tough conversation to have.

“It can sometimes be a devastating conversation to have with a patient,” Dr. Galligan said. “Because there are few good treatment options.”

The most common treatment is an ankle fusion. This treatment fuses two bones in the ankle together using plates and screws to help stop the pain and swelling. Though total ankle surgeries can be done, Dr. Galligan advises against them because of their lower success rate.

“An ankle fusion is the gold standard,” Dr. Galligan said. “Medical professionals are constantly trying to improve total ankle surgeries, but for now the safest route is an ankle fusion.”

Ankle arthritis is a condition that many are looking for better ways to treat.

“It can be a devastating problem for patients,” Dr. Galligan said. “People rely on their ankles for mobility and having ankle arthritis can significantly affect their quality of life. It is a topic that needs to be talked about carefully and you want to make sure to see an established professional who has experience in all types of treatment for ankle arthritis.”

Talk to your doctor about prevention, or what to do in the early stages of ankle arthritis. Though there is not a cure for arthritis, there are treatment options that can improve some symptoms of arthritis.

“Through trials, we have been able to find what works and what doesn’t,” Dr. Galligan said. “There are constantly studies happening, because the more information we can gain to get the most successful outcomes, the better.”

Learn more about Dr. Galligan and his practice today. For other questions or to schedule an appointment, call 785-843-9125.


- Jessica Brewer is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health.


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Ankle arthritis - How much do you know?