Ankle injuries can set the stage for osteoarthritis to develop. One of the best ways to alleviate the pain associated with arthritis in the ankle is to undergo total ankle replacement surgery, also known as ankle arthroplasty.
In the past, many ankle replacement surgeries yielded little improvement so most physicians abstained from performing the procedure and instead relied on fusing bones together to improve mobility. Fortunately, today there is a new generation of ankle replacement devices that have a better anatomical design than previous implants and improved longevity. These advanced prosthetics also allow better movement. There is finally an excellent treatment option for patients who need ankle replacement surgery.
Types of Ankle Replacement
- Total Ankle Replacement – a surgical procedure on the ankle to relieve pain and maintain motion in the arthritic ankle joint and is an alternative to arthrodesis (ankle fusion) which can relieve pain but eliminates motion in the joint.
- Partial Ankle Replacement – a surgical procedure that only replaces the damaged areas of the ankle, keeping more of the natural joint preserved.
How Ankle Replacement Surgery is Performed
The surgeon removes the damaged portions of the joint. Two metal pieces are then inserted into the leg bones—one into the lower end of the shin bone (the tibia), the other into the ankle bone.
After the surgery, patients are “non-weight bearing”—that is, they must not put weight on the new ankle joint and use crutches to get around—for at least two or three weeks after surgery.
Benefits of Ankle Replacement Surgery
Following the surgery, hospital stays usually last for 2 or 3 days. During this time, you will recover from the anesthesia, and from the surgery itself. After the first day recovering from surgery, you will be asked to start moving and walking around.
Most patients are able to go home directly after a short hospital stay. Patients going home will begin therapy at an outpatient physical therapy facility. If the discharge planner determines that home health services are needed, the hospital will arrange for this.
Some patients may need a short stay in a rehabilitation center after they leave the hospital and before they go home. The decision to go home or to a skilled nursing facility will be made collectively by you, the Joint Care Coordinator, your surgeon, physical therapist, and your insurance company. Every attempt will be made to have this decision finalized in advance but it may be delayed until the day of discharge. At a rehab center, you will learn how to safely do your daily activities on your own. Home health services are also available.
Ankle Replacement Surgery Follow Up Care
After surgery, you will have a follow-up appointment with your surgeon to make sure your ankle is healing properly. If recovery is progressing well, most people resume their normal activities by this time — even if in a limited fashion.