If you’re suffering from severe ankle arthritis that’s causing pain and affecting your mobility—and conservative treatment such as medication and physical therapy haven’t provided relief—total ankle replacement surgery may offer the best option for long-term improvement.
Just as diseased knees and hips can be replaced with new artificial joints, now ankles can be too. This is a highly specialized procedure, however, so you’ll be glad to know that at Aspire Orthopedic Institute, we have a fellowship-trained orthopedic subspecialist with extensive experience in foot and ankle surgery.
What does total ankle replacement involve?
Ankle replacement surgery (also called total ankle arthroplasty) is performed to replace the damaged bone and cartilage in the ankle joint. Artificial joint parts, called prosthetics, are used to replace your own bones. During the procedure, your surgeon will:
- Make an incision in the front of your ankle to expose your ankle joint
- Gently push aside the tendons, nerves, and blood vessels to access the joint and remove the damaged bone and cartilage
- Replace the damaged part of the lower end of your shin bone (tibia) and the top of your foot bone (talus) that the leg bones rest on
- Attach the metal parts of the new artificial joint to the cut bony surfaces using a special glue/bone cement and insert a piece of medical-grade plastic between the two metal parts
The benefits of total ankle replacement
While ankle fusion is a common treatment to relieve pain caused by severe arthritis in the ankle joint, total ankle arthroplasty is often a better alternative in appropriate patients because:
- It preserves the ankle joint’s ability to move up and down, which helps protect surrounding joints from increased wear—something that very active patients value a lot
- It offers better movement and coordination of the foot and leg
- If the diseased joint was deformed, ankle replacement provides an improved appearance
- It may mean the difference between walking with a crutch and regaining true mobility
Who’s a candidate for total ankle replacement?
Total ankle arthroscopy is appropriate in most patients who have ankle pain and decreased function due to osteoarthritis and for whom conservative treatment hasn’t provided relief.
It may also be an option for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and those who don’t want ankle fusion that would limit their ankles’ range of motion.
Who’s not a candidate for total ankle replacement?
Total ankle arthroscopy is not suited for patients who have:
- Significant deformity in the talus (the bottom bone of the ankle joint)
- Infections in the ankle
- Significant lower-extremity neuropathy (peripheral nerve disease)
- Poor leg muscle function
- Poor blood flow to the leg
What is recovery from total ankle replacement like?
Every body is different. How quickly you recover from this procedure depends on your age, how physically active you are before surgery, and how closely you follow your prescribed physical therapy regimen before and after surgery.
Patients who maintain healthy habits and a healthy weight after surgery typically experience less pain and improved mobility—enabling them to get back to the activities they enjoyed before pain became a problem.
Want to learn more about total ankle replacement at Aspire Orthopedic Institute?
Simply call us at 503-261-6961 to schedule an appointment.
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