Many people experience pain and loss of function in the ankle joint due to osteoarthritis (OA). Stem cell therapy / treatment of the ankle joint should be considered a possible first treatment option for the ankle joint with osteoarthritis, as this treatment enjoys one of the highest successful stem cell treatment rates, possibly negating or significantly postponing surgical treatment.
The most traditional treatment of the ankle joint has been fusion. Though claims of 95% success rate have been made about the procedure, one has to wonder what success means. After all, the joint is frozen in place. Motion of the joint is not possible in a successful fusion. This frozen joint also causes skeletal stresses for all the other joints in the leg, as well as the back.
In the last eight years total ankle joint replacement has been developed. In this procedure, the worn out joint is replaced with a prosthetic implant made of metal and plastic. However, the results have had mixed reviews and we do not know how long the joint will last, nor the success rate of any revision operations, which is bound to be needed especially in younger patients.
Recently treatments involving transplanting living cartilage and bone have been developed. In these procedures, a segment of bone and/or cartilage is removed from the arthritic ankle and is replaced with a graft of donor tissue. Here we face the problem of tissue rejection and the taking of anti-rejection drugs. Not a pleasant prospect.
Considering the low cost and low-risk of adult stem cell treatment of the joint, it is well worth attempting stem cell therapy before one of these surgical options. The surgical options will always remain.