The physical impairment caused by OA of a single lower extremity joint is comparable to that reported for major life-altering disorders such as end-stage kidney disease and heart failure. (Buckwalter, et al) [1]

Ankle distraction arthroplasty has been shown to greatly decrease pain due to end-stage ankle arthritis. Unlike arthrodesis (fusion of the joint), distraction arthroplasty maintains the joint’s natural movement, and it is far less complicated than total joint replacement surgery. There is a considerable body of research supporting the idea that distraction of an end-stage arthritic joint (most of the work thus far has been done on ankles, although there has also been some investigation of the efficacy of the treatment for knee arthritis) for a period of weeks allows the growth of new tissue in the joint. Although this tissue is not true articular cartilage, distraction arthroplasty has been shown to significantly decrease pain and, in the majority of cases, to be a long lasting remedy for a condition that would otherwise commonly be treated with arthrodesis. [2]

Devices currently available for this procedure are generally quite complicated because they are designed for a wide range of functions related to bone fixation. This versatility also tends to make those systems larger and more expensive, and their aggressively mechanical appearance makes potential joint distraction patients hesitant to select the procedure. While fracture patients may not have a choice about being treated with such devices, elective patients are instinctively resistant to their use, even when assured that the end result will most likely significantly improve in the quality of their lives.

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