In recent years, ankle replacement surgery has come a long way. In fact, early reports show replacement has a higher success rate than ankle fusion.
If you’re not familiar with it, ankle replacement is a form of joint replacement surgery. The goal is to replace parts of your ankle with prosthetics. These parts are often made of metal or plastic and move like a natural joint.
This treatment is only for people whose ankle pain affects their quality of life. Read on to see if that includes you and what to expect from the procedure.
Who Is Total Ankle Replacement For?
The most common cause of ankle replacement surgery is ankle arthritis. This condition can develop with age or due to repeated ankle injuries. Common symptoms of ankle arthritis include:
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Difficulty walking
In some cases, basic treatments can help improve ankle health. They include orthotics, medications, and physical therapy. That said, severe cases require targeted treatment, which may include ankle replacement.
Keep in mind that ankle replacement isn’t the best solution for everyone. For instance, if you have diabetes, you may be better off with another type of ankle surgery. Have your doctor walk you through the options.
Preparing for Surgery
If you know what to expect from ankle replacement surgery, preparing for challenges will be much easier. First, talk to your medical team about how to get ready. They may recommend you to:
- Stop smoking
- Start physical therapy
- Stop taking some medications
It’s also important to have realistic expectations from the recovery process. You’ll struggle with walking for a while, so create plans for doing daily tasks. Talk to your family and the friends about how they can help you.
Ankle Replacement Surgery
In general, total ankle replacement takes about two and a half hours. During this time, your surgeon and their team of healthcare providers will:
- Provide general anesthesia and nerve blocks
- Make an incision in your ankle to access it
- Get rid of worn-down bone and cartilage
- Prepare your ankle for prosthetics
- Insert prosthetic pieces and check their motion range
- Ensure proper ankle-foot alignment
Ankle replacement tends to be an inpatient procedure. That said, most patients only need to spend a single night in the hospital.
Post-Surgery Ankle Recovery
Surgery recovery for ankle replacement can take six to 12 months. This can depend on your musculoskeletal reconstruction and orthopaedic solutions. The better the solution, the shorter the recovery time.
While your ankle is healing, you’ll wear a cast or splint to keep it immobilized. You’ll need to use crutches and take medications to prevent blood clots. Rehabilitation may also include physical therapy, such as:
- Gait training to help you walk
- Strength exercises
- Massage to decrease swelling
- Stretches for flexibility
- Weight-bearing exercises
Ankle Replacement Made Easy
Ankle arthritis is a common complaint, and there are many treatments for it. If those therapies don’t work, though, ankle replacement is the best option. The above article will let you know how to handle it the right way. Interested in our other health tips? Keep checking out our Health archives for more information on how to care for yourself!