Who needs a total ankle replacement?
If you suffer from end-stage ankle arthritis 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, but it’s more common in joints that have been injured or damaged. It’s common in the ankle simply because ankle injuries are extremely common. An orthopedic surgeon can determine whether you are a good candidate for total ankle replacement. In general, the best candidate is a healthy person with minimal instability and/or deformity/malalignment.
What happens during a total ankle replacement?
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 normally takes between two and three hours total and is performed under general anesthesia.
How do you recover?
Following 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 be immobilized in a splint or boot. For the first two weeks after surgery, you will use crutches or a walker to avoid putting any weight on your ankle as it heals.
Partial weight-bearing may begin two to three weeks after surgery and gradually increase to full weight-bearing at four to six weeks after surgery. Your providers will teach you to gradually increase the amount you walk and give you exercises to perform several times each day. Full recovery may take anywhere between six to 12 months, 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 designs are increasingly more durable. Current total ankle replacements can last between 10 to 15 years. The more high-impact activities you do, the faster your joint replacement will wear out.