The Foot and Ankle Clinic

Ilizarov joint distraction

What is Ilizarov joint distraction? | How is the Ilizarov frame used? | How does it work? | What will the operation improve? | How likely is it to improve my pain? | How long will it last? | After the operation


What is Ilizarov joint distraction?
This is a relatively new technique involving the application of an (operatively applied) external frame/'fixator' across the ankle joint. The specific type of frame is called an Ilizarov frame which supports the foot, ankle and tibia with fine tensioned wires (the suspension bridge principle).

ilizarov frame ilizarov frame

The frame is designed to allow full weight bearing after the procedure.
As the ankle joint is immobilised by the wires it may be necessary to wear a rocker sole shoe whilst it is in place.

How is the frame used?
The frame is used to distract (open up) the arthritic ankle joint.  It can achieve this as it is fixed on either side of the ankle.

how the ilizarov frame is used

The distance between the two points of fixation (across the ankle joint, labelled 1 and 2) is increased using bars and nuts. This stretches the soft tissues and opens the joint.

traction maintennance

This traction is maintained usually for three months, then the frame is removed.

the frame in place with wires crossing the tibia and calcaneum the frame in place with wires crossing the tibia and calcaneum - back view

The frame in place with wires crossing the tibia and calcaneum(heel bone).

The initial operation is normally combined with an arthroscopic debridement of the ankle joint.
(The frame incidentally can also be used to correct deformities at /around the ankle concurrently by using the same principles of distraction to lengthen chronically shortened/contracted soft tissues).

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