sportsmed spotlight on: Foot & ankle arthritis

Meet Dr Thomas Fisher, trained in Orthopaedics and experienced in a range of foot and ankle ailments, including arthritis.

Meet Dr Thomas Fisher

Dr Fisher is Adelaide trained in Orthopaedics and completed a sub-specialty fellowship in Sydney, Australia, focused on total ankle replacement, minimally invasive foot surgery and lower limb deformity reconstruction. He is experienced in preventative care, treatment and rehabilitation for a range of foot and ankle ailments, conditions, injuries and fractures.

What is foot and ankle arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition involving degeneration of the smooth cartilage that absorbs impact and allows joints to move. It manifests as a combination of pain, stiffness and swelling. While the hip is a single joint connecting only two bones, the foot and ankle are much more complex with 28 bones and around 27 joints! 

Why does arthritis occur in the foot and ankle?

Many people with arthritis are classed as having osteoarthritis, which is general wear and tear of the cartilage surfaces that occurs over time. There are genetic factors that increase the likelihood of this occurring but usually there is no specific reason that it has occurred in a particular joint. The shape and alignment of feet contribute to this wear and tear as well, and people with particular foot shapes (such as flat feet, or high arched feet) may be more likely to develop problems. Inflammatory conditions can also cause arthritis in some people.

What treatments are available for arthritis in the foot and ankle?

The goal of treatment of arthritis is to relieve pain, improve function, and restore mobility. We aim to get people back on the golf course, cycling, playing bowls, hiking and enjoying time with family. 

Many people who have arthritis will not require surgery. The sportsmed Foot and Ankle Clinic has a collaborative team of foot and ankle clinicians. Our podiatry team are experts at assessing subtle imbalances in force distribution in the foot during the gait cycle (walking cycle). In many cases selecting the right type of footwear or using an insert (orthotic) in shoes will be sufficient to relieve mild forms of arthritis. 

When simpler measures are not effective, or no longer effective, surgery may be beneficial. If contemplating surgery, it is essential to understand exactly which joints are generating pain, and in some cases further scans are arranged to gain information about this. In mild cases, surgery that preserves the joint can be performed, such as removing prominent or painful bone spurs, and painful inflamed tissue surrounding a joint. In more severe cases, the joint is removed, either by fusing the adjacent bones together, or placing other material in between the two bones to relieve the pain. 

Given the many different sizes and shapes of joints throughout the foot and ankle, these procedures vary greatly depending on the location of the arthritis.

What is the recovery after foot and ankle surgery?

The sportsmed Foot and Ankle Clinic provides a multidisciplinary collaborative rehabilitation program to get you back on track. Recovery after surgery on the feet varies depending on the location. Some procedures are suitable for gentle weight-bearing as comfort allows immediately. Other procedures require the use of a supportive boot and avoidance of weight-bearing for up to 12 weeks. Major foot surgery can take a longer time to see the maximal benefits from, in some cases with gradual recovery up to 12 months. 

Please keep in mind that treatment methods and outcomes vary between patients. Each individual patient has specialised requirements.

sportsmed is an industry leading healthcare provider with a private orthopaedic hospital and specialist clinics across a number of locations, offering patients access to modern and innovative healthcare in state-of-the-art facilities.

A referral from your GP is required to make an appointment with Dr Gieroba or any of sportsmed’s Orthopaedic surgeons.

Stepney Healthcare Hub · Blackwood · Henley Beach · Morphett Vale · Mitcham


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