What is ankle replacement?
Ankle replacement surgery involves removing an ankle joint that has irreparable damage and replacing it with an artificial joint.
Your ankle joint (tibiotalar joint) is a meeting point for your shinbone (tibia), and a bone called the talus in your foot. Like other joints, your ankle can develop arthritis, which causes the protective cartilage on your bones to wear down.
As a result, the bones start rubbing instead of sliding over each other, causing inflammation, swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joint. Osteoarthritis, which is due to wear and tear, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease, are the two most common types of ankle arthritis.
Your ankle could also suffer trauma that’s severe enough to make repairing the joint impossible or could leave you with a permanent weakness.
When would I need ankle replacement?
Ankle replacement can resolve the problems arthritis causes when other treatments aren’t relieving your symptoms.
If you have mild to moderate arthritis, your provider at Western Orthopaedics, P.C., can treat your condition using conservative measures such as:
- Pain medicines
- Shoe inserts or orthotics
- Physical therapy
- Corticosteroid injections
- Regenerative medicine
Alternatives to ankle replacement include arthroscopic debridement (minimally invasive surgery to clear debris and smooth roughened bone), and ankle fusion, which joins the bones in an unstable joint.
These procedures may be suitable for some patients, but ankle replacement might be a better option for regaining optimal function in your ankle.
What happens during ankle replacement surgery?
It takes your surgeon several hours to carry out your ankle replacement surgery. You’ll be under anesthetic and asleep throughout the procedure.
After making one or two incisions into your ankle, your surgeon removes the damaged ends of the bones in your ankle joint. They smooth and shape the bones, then attach the new metal caps. They might use bone cement to fix the artificial bone ends in place.
Between the bones, your surgeon places a plastic spacer that enables the replacement bone ends to glide over each other.
When everything is in place, your surgeon closes the incisions, and you go to the recovery area.
What happens after ankle replacement surgery?
You won’t be able to use your ankle at first following ankle replacement surgery. The joint needs to be immobilized to enable healing to begin, and you need to take pain medication for the first few days, at least.
As your ankle heals, you begin a program of physical therapy to ensure the muscles, tendons, and ligaments don’t weaken or shorten. Physical therapy helps the ankle heal properly and gives you a much better chance of recovering full use of your ankle joint.
If you have disabling arthritis in your ankle that is continuing to worsen despite treatment, ankle replacement could be a good option for you. Call Western Orthopaedics, P.C., today or book an appointment online.