Who Needs a Total Ankle Replacement?
If you are experiencing crippling arthritis in the ankle, and nonsurgical treatments have not relieved your pain and limited mobility, you may be a candidate. Arthritis can occur in any joint in the body, especially joints that have been injured or damaged; since ankle injuries are extremely common, arthritis in the ankle can often be the result. An orthopedic surgeon can determine whether you are a good candidate for a total ankle replacement, with ideal candidates having minimal to no deformity or malalignment of the ankle.
What Can You Expect from the Procedure?
During the procedure, your surgeon will remove the diseased cartilage and bone in your ankle joint, smooth the surfaces of the bones, and replace your joint with artificial joint parts (prosthetics) made of metal and plastic. The surgery takes approximately two and a half hours, and patients will either receive general anesthesia or a nerve block.
How Do You Recover?
Following a total ankle replacement, patients typically stay in the hospital for two to three days. During this time, your leg will be elevated, and your ankle will remain immobilized in a splint or boot. Once you are able to use crutches or a walker, you can return home, although you should avoid putting any weight on the ankle for the first two weeks after surgery.
Partial weight-bearing activity may begin two to three weeks after surgery, and full weight-bearing is expected four to six weeks after surgery. Physical therapy is recommended to strengthen the ankle, as the prescribed exercises will improve your range of motion. Full recovery may take anywhere from six months to a year, after which patients can safely return to light recreational activity and non-weight-bearing sports.
How Long Does a Total Ankle Replacement Last?
Like all joint replacements, an ankle replacement can wear out over time and does not withstand high-impact activity well. However, newer implant designs are more durable. Current total ankle replacements can last between 10 to 15 years, at which time a revision procedure may be required.