Does An Ankle Fracture Lead to Osteoarthritis?

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Question: Does Ankle Fracture Lead to Osteoarthritis?

Post-traumatic arthritis refers to osteoarthritis that is caused by injury to a joint, such as ankle fracture. Osteoarthritis can develop months or years after the actual fracture occurred.

What causes osteoarthritis to develop following ankle fracture? Are there factors that affect how soon osteoarthritis will develop or how severe the condition will be?


Ankle Fracture Can Develop into Ankle Osteoarthritis

Ankle injury, such as ankle fracture, can damage articular cartilage, the smooth covering over the ends of the bones in a joint. Even when cartilage is not damaged directly, the injury can affect how the ankle works mechanically, leading to joint instability and ultimately osteoarthritis.

Progression from Fracture to Osteoarthritis

It can take time for symptoms of osteoarthritis to appear in an ankle that has been fractured (referred to as latency time). One study indicated that certain factors affect the latency time.

One factor is the type of fracture. It takes less time for osteoarthritis symptoms to develop if the ankle fracture is severe. Complications during the healing process following ankle fracture also can result in shorter time before osteoarthritis develops.

Age has an effect too. Osteoarthritis developed more quickly in patients who were older when the ankle fracture occurred.

Younger patients had a longer time before osteoarthritis symptoms appeared.

What Can You Do to Delay Ankle Osteoarthritis?

It can be 20 or more years between ankle fracture and ankle osteoarthritis. What can you do to delay the development of post-traumatic ankle osteoarthritis and prevent ankle fracture, if possible?

Here's how:


Posttraumatic Ankle Osteoarthritis After Ankle-Related Fractures. Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma: Volume 23(1)January 2009.