In this procedure, a circular external fixation device is applied to the lower leg and the ankle joint is slightly pulled apart (distracted). Patients are able to walk immediately after application and the external fixator is left in place for three months. The hydrostatic pressure changes created in the ankle joint from distraction and loading with weightbearing have been reported to stimulate cartilage regeneration. After three months the external fixation device is removed. Ankle distraction athroplasty is a stronger consideration for patients in their 20's and 30's because they are able to generate a better quality cartilage in the ankle joint. Ankle distraction arthroplasy may help delay a total ankle replacement or ankle fusion, both of which have risks in a younger patient with end stage ankle arthritis.
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