Also known as total ankle arthroplasty, total ankle replacement is a surgery that can only be performed by foot and ankle surgeons to treatment arthritic ankle joints.

What is an Ankle Replacement?

The surgeon will replace the biological ankle joint with metal and plastic components, much like a knee replacement. Your surgeon may choose to approach from the front or the side. Sometimes, a tight calf muscle or tight Achilles tendon may need to be lengthened to improve potential range of motion.

Who should have an Ankle Replacement?

If non-surgical treatments like rest, physical therapy, or anti-inflammatory or pain medicine have not relieved someone of pain or their ankle function is severely impaired, they may be a good candidate. People with rheumatoid arthritis are typically good candidates.

Does an Ankle Replacement work?

Ankle replacement is very successful at achieving the main goal of relieving the pain associated with ankle movement. However, it is an open surgery and has the same risks as all open surgeries: blood clotting, infection and others your physician may discuss. However, OrthoNebraska Hospital has a lower than average infection rate and blood clotting is very rare, affecting about 1 of every 200 patients.

National studies suggest most people will see about 10 to 15 years’ worth of benefits before symptoms start to return as arthritis spreads to other areas of the foot and ankle. Younger patients are poor candidates as they will wear out the replacement joints too soon.

What can I expect when I have an Ankle Replacement?

You may need a pre-surgical physical to make any necessary accommodations based on your health history. When you arrive at the hospital, you’ll speak to your surgeon and anesthesiologist. You will likely be under general anesthesia (fully asleep) for this procedure. You will typically stay overnight in the hospital and be released the next day.

After surgery, you’ll need assistance at first with daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, driving and bathing, as your foot will need to be elevated. Strict foot elevation for at least a week is essential to prevent swelling and help the wound heal. After the surgical wounds are healed, you may be tasked with gentle exercises to get the joint moving. You will not stand or put weight on your feet until at least a few weeks after surgery. After that, you will gradually put more weight and stress on your foot as you progress.

Full recovery – being totally pain-free and with full range of motion – takes about nine months to a year.