BOTTOM LINE UPFRONT
An ankle replacement helps you regain strength and stability in your ankle. The treatment also preserves range of motion. The replacement parts move together, like your natural joint allowing you to walk normally, with less pain, and return to a more active lifestyle.
WHAT IS TOTAL ANKLE REPLACEMENT?
Total ankle replacement also called total ankle arthroplasty (TAA) is a surgical procedure that helps to relieve pain and maintain motion in an arthritic or injured ankle joint. Ankle replacement is an alternative treatment to ankle fusion, which often limits the motion of the joint since the procedure permanently fuses the bones together. Depending on your condition, age, weight, and activity level, ankle replacement may be a better alternative than ankle fusion.
The goal of ankle replacement is to provide pain relief while preserving ankle motion. In this procedure, the damaged ankle joint is removed and replaced with an artificial implant made of metal and plastic. Unlike an ankle fusion procedure when only relieves pain, with ankle replacement the new parts work together and move like your natural ankle joint. The goals of total ankle replacement are to relieve pain and regain range of motion.
AM I A CANDIDATE FOR ANKLE REPLACEMENT SURGERY?
If you have mild or moderate ankle arthritis or pain, your doctor will recommend you try non-invasive, non-surgical treatments like anti-inflammatory medication, bracing, inserts, physical therapy, activity modification, and injections. If you have exhausted all conservative options but continue to experience ankle pain and decreased function, you may be a candidate for total ankle replacement.
ANKLE REPLACEMENT SURGERY
Ankle replacement is performed either under general anesthesia or nerve block. The surgeon will approach the ankle from the front or the side, depending on the type of implant being used. The damaged bone will be removed and the metal and plastic components that recreate the ankle joint will be inserted. Sometimes the procedure will require additional work to ensure the foot and ankle are properly aligned. Your wounds will be closed using stitches or staples and a splint will be applied.
Recovery from a total ankle replacement requires a period of non-weightbearing in a cast or boot to allow the implants to heal in place. Strict elevation for many days after the procedure is necessary to control swelling and improve wound healing. Weightbearing usually begins a few weeks after surgery if X-rays show good healing.
You may have significant pain right after your surgery, but pain medicines may help ease the pain. The pain should begin to diminish over a few days, and you should have less pain than before your surgery.
Make sure to keep all your follow-up appointments, so that your healthcare provider can monitor your progress. Carefully following your healthcare provider’s instructions about rehabilitation, medicines, and wound care should increase your chances of a positive outcome.
Recovery from ankle replacement surgery can take anywhere from six to 12 months. Physical therapy after surgery can help you regain mobility in your ankle. Rehabilitation may include:
- Gait training to help you stand and walk.
- Massage to decrease swelling.
- Strengthening exercises.
- Stretches for range of motion and flexibility.
- Weightbearing activities.
BENEFITS OVER ANKLE FUSION SURGERY
Ankle replacement is usually preferable to ankle fusion surgery. Fusion surgery permanently joins the ankle bones together, limiting the range of motion. This loss of flexibility can affect the way you walk or cause arthritis to develop in other joints. When the motion of the ankle is preserved with an ankle replacement instead of a fusion, the surrounding joints are protected from increased wear. As technology increases and new implants and surgical techniques are developed, ankle replacements are the better alternative to relieve pain and damage in the ankle.
WHO SHOULD I SEE TO HAVE A TOTAL ANKLE REPLACEMENT?
Only a highly skilled orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the foot and ankle should perform total ankle joint replacement. Dr. Anson Chu of G2 Orthopedics and Sports Medicine has the expertise and specialized training for this type of surgery. Contact us today for a consultation. Call 804-678-9000 or visit us online.