Ankle Replacement Surgery (Ankle Arthroplasty)

Total ankle replacement involves implanting an artificial device to replace a damaged ankle joint. Ankle replacement surgery treats loss of mobility and relieves pain from arthritis, bone fracture, and infection.

What You Need To Know About an Ankle Replacement

What is Ankle Replacement Surgery?

Ankle replacement surgery, or ankle arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure that replaces damaged bone and cartilage in the ankle joint. Damage to the bone, muscle, or soft tissue may stem from a sprain, tendonitis, or chronic inflammation from arthritis. Deteriorated ankle joints may limit mobility, cause chronic pain, and ankle joint replacement surgery is often required to address symptoms.

Ankle fusion may be an alternative treatment to alleviate pain but will restrict motion in the ankle joint. Doctors utilize artificial joint prosthetics during ankle surgery to replace damaged bones and repair cartilage. Prosthetics will help relieve pain while allowing for adequate mobility.

The latest ankle replacement surgeries have incorporated improved biomechanics and are becoming the recommended option for patients suffering from ankle pain with end-stage arthritis.

Your ankle replacement surgeon will be able to give you more information about the ankle replacement. Book a Foot and Ankle Center appointment today!

Why is an Ankle Replacement Performed?

Over time your ankle joint may need to replaced due to extensive damage and loss of mobility due to one or several of the following issues:

There are many ankle repair options. Generally, an ankle joint replacement surgical option is a last resort. Before recommending total ankle replacement, your doctor may apply a brace to the damaged ankle joint to alleviate pain. Other alternative remedies to help an injured ankle may include pain medication, anti-inflammatory medication, or physical therapy. However, these are only short-term solutions, and surgery may be the best option if the damage is too severe.

Ankle fusion only addresses chronic pain for damaged cartilage or joints, but the permanent fusion of bones will limit your mobility. Consult your physician to determine your best course of treatment depending on your lifestyle, age, weight, and condition.

For close to 25 years, doctors have been performing ankle replacement surgery. Recent medical advancements in prosthetics and surgical applications have made the ankle replacement safer and more practical in the past decade.

How to Prepare for an Ankle Replacement

After you have decided to proceed with an ankle replacement surgery, consult with your physician, and disclose any prescriptions or allergies you have. Inform your doctor of any pre-existing medical conditions involving your heart, lung, or kidneys. Maintaining complete transparency with your physician helps them prepare your surgery.

Make sure that you address any infections in your body and seek treatment before your surgical procedure. Also, refrain from smoking before your surgery. Prepare your home for at least six months of recovery post-surgery. Hold off from any physical activity and make any necessary accommodations at your job.

What Happens During an Ankle Replacement Surgery?

During surgery, you will be given general anesthesia, and you will feel no pain. Your doctor will place a nerve block around your knee, and a tourniquet around your thigh. A tourniquet will help control bleeding and give the surgeon a better view of the ankle.

The surgeon will make an incision in the front or side of the ankle. They will utilize x-rays to locate the best place to cut accurately. Next, the surgeon will remove the diseased or damaged portion of the ankle by cutting through the bones. Depending on the patient, the surgeon will remove the lower end of your shin bone (tibia) or the top of your foot bone (talus). Removing the bone will allow them to place the artificial ankle prosthetic consisting of metal and plastic parts to replace your damaged ankle joint.

Some patients with tight calf muscles or Achilles tendon may require a lengthening procedure to increase mobility and range of motion. Finally, the surgeon will end your procedure by closing the incisions with sutures or staples, putting tendons back in place, and placing the operated ankle in a padded splint, cast, or brace.

Are There Risks Associated with Ankle Replacement Surgery?

During surgery, fracture of bone on either side of the prosthesis may occur in the tibia, fibula, or talus. Wound healing may be an issue for high-risk patients such as those with diabetes or who have poor circulation from peripheral vascular disease. The bone may fail to heal to the new metal and plastic prosthetics, or they may wear out, causing the components to loosen the implant from the bone.

Consult with your physician to discuss potential risks based on your medical history before your surgery. Book an appointment today.

Post Ankle Replacement Surgery and Recovery

You will stay in the hospital for one to two days following your total ankle replacement. Ankle replacement recovery requires that you will follow a strict elevation regimen for several days to reduce swelling and promote healing. And you will need to wear a splint or cast for three to four weeks and should not place any weight on the operated ankle for the time being.

Patients will typically start physical therapy six weeks after surgery to the strength and range of motion of the operated ankle. At this time the ankle is not ready for weight bearing activities like walking. You should not walk on the ankle for the six weeks but may return to wearing a regular shoe after that time. Before the recovering patient starts to work on their ankle, it is imperative to refrain from any ankle movement for 1-2 months to encourage healing.

Learn more about our ankle treatment options by visiting our Foot and Ankle Center.

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