Ankle Replacement Recovery

Ankle Replacement Recovery

How to Prepare for Recovery Time for Total Ankle Replacement

How can a patient help their recovery progress quickly?

What is the success rate of ankle replacement surgery?

How long are you non weight bearing after ankle replacement?


Total ankle replacement surgery, also known as ankle arthroplasty, is the process of replacing injured ankle bones and cartilage with stronger prosthetic or artificial parts. This relatively new procedure is highly effective in reducing pain and improving mobility in ankle joints that have been severely injured through an accident or arthritis. When other methods of treating the injured ankle have failed to produce the desired results, replacing the joint may be a patient’s best option. 

Ankle replacement (total ankle arthroplasty) is major surgery to reduce ankle pain. A surgeon removes the lower part of the shin bone (tibia) and top of the highest bone on the foot (talus) The ankle is replaced with plastic or metal pieces.

You may have a cast, boot, or splint on your leg for about a month after surgery. You won't be able to put weight on the leg at first. It will be helpful if there is someone to help you at home for the next few weeks or until you have more energy and can move around better.

You will go home with a bandage and stitches or staples. You can remove the bandage when your doctor tells you to. If the stitches aren't the type that dissolve, your doctor will remove them in 10 to 14 days.

You may still have some mild pain, and the area may be swollen for several months after surgery. Your doctor may prescribe pain medicine for a few weeks.

For several weeks you will continue the rehabilitation program (rehab) you may have started in the hospital. Depending on your job, you may be able to return to work in a few weeks. Some people need more time to recover. You may need to avoid certain leg movements or putting too much weight on your ankle.

In the future, make sure to let all health professionals know about your artificial ankle. You may need to take antibiotics before you have dental work or a medical procedure. This helps reduce the chance that your new ankle will get infected.

Read more about : Total knee replacement

Read more about: Bimalleolar and Trimalleolar Ankle Fractures

Hospital stays

You will be admitted to the hospital the morning of surgery and stay in the hospital for approximately two to three days until you have adequate control of your pain and can walk safely on crutches or a walker.

Patients are discharged home from the hospital when they can walk safely using crutches and when their pain is controlled without intravenous medication.

Read more about: Ankle Replacement Options

How can a patient help their recovery progress quickly?

Although patients are likely eager to enjoy pain free use of their ankle, the recovery time for total ankle replacement does require some patience. It is important not to rush this process, so that the joint and surrounding area have adequate time to heal and adjust, providing the fullest recovery of painless mobility. However, there are some good practices that patients can follow which help to ensure a smooth and effective recovery. 

First and foremost, it is important to keep swelling down during the first two weeks after surgery. This can be done by keeping the patient’s foot raised above his or her heart whenever resting or sleeping. Pillows are helpful to prop up the foot without placing any pressure on the heel. 

Additionally, it is important that patients use the tools they are given for recovery. These tools include crutches and boots or splints that help support the new, healing ankle. It is important for patients to use these tools until their doctor gives them go ahead to walk without assistance.  

Another set of “tools” patient should use to aid their recovery includes any physical therapy or exercises prescribed by the doctor or therapist. These stretches and exercises help to teach the new joint how to function properly and help to achieve the greatest range of motion.

Read more about: Ankle Replacement VS Ankle Fusion

What is the success rate of ankle replacement surgery?

Over the last 10 years, ankle arthroplasty has been growing in popularity as the implants available for replacement have improved. Current studies indicate about a 90 percent patient satisfaction rate in the first four years after surgery. Ankle replacement surgery is very successful in most cases, but it does have some risks. These include:

  • Infection
  • Damage to nearby nerves
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clot
  • The bones not joining together properly
  • Misalignment of the bones
  • New arthritis in neighboring joints
  • Loosening of the artificial components, which might eventually need a follow-up surgery
  • Wearing out of the components

Your own risk of complications may vary according to your age and your other medical conditions. For example, if you are a smoker or if you have low bone density, you may have an increased risk of certain complications. People with poorly controlled diabetes may also have an increased risk.

Read more about: Ankle Replacement Surgery

How long are you non weight bearing after ankle replacement?

 One to two day after the procedure your medical team will ask you to get up and start moving as soon as you can. You'll need to use crutches or a walker, because you have to keep your weight off your new ankle for the next 4-6 weeks or so. You might still need some pain-relief medicine to stay comfortable

You'll probably stay in the hospital for 2 to 3 days. You can leave once your pain is under control and you can get around safely with crutches or a walker. After 4 weeks you might be able to go back to work. But if your job is physically demanding, you'll have to wait longer.

Your doctor will recommend physical therapy to strengthen your ankle and increase your range of motion.

You'll get an X-ray about 6 weeks after surgery. If your ankle is healing well, your doctor might tell you that you can stop using crutches. You'll switch from a splint to a boot that should allow you to start walking on the ankle.

What can I expect after ankle replacement surgery?

It can take a full year for you to walk like you used to and get back to most of your activities. Eventually, you should be able to swim, hike, and bike. Avoid high-impact activities like running or contact sports, which can damage the new ankle. Most of the newer replacements last 10 years or more.

Read more about: Foot and ankle surgery

How many hours does ankle surgery take?

On average, most foot and ankle surgery takes an hour to perform. Complex trauma or reconstructive surgery for severe deformities may take 3-4 hours depending on how many ankles fractures your surgeon needs to fix in place with screws, pins, or plates.

How soon after ankle surgery can I drive?

Patients with isolated, surgically treated right ankle fractures can successfully pass a standard driving test at 6 weeks post-surgery, even before weight bearing has been initiated.

Read more about: Knee arthroscopy orthobullets


10 common questions about Ankle Replacement Recovery

1How long does it take to recover from ankle replacement surgery?
The process for recovery time for total ankle replacement comes in a few stages. For approximately six weeks after the procedure, the patient will wear a boot or splint and use assistance when moving about. During the first two of those weeks, patients should limit their movements to allow healing of the incision.
2Are ankle replacements successful?
Ankle replacement is a procedure that has been available for approximately 25 years. However, it has not been as successful as hip and knee replacement surgery. ... Current studies indicate about a 90 percent patient satisfaction rate in the first four years after surgery.
3Can you run after ankle replacement?
The patient with a successfully replaced ankle, in contrast, will not feel the restriction of the performed surgery, and thus he or she may tend to subject the replaced ankle to too much stress. Giannini: Patients should expect to be able to return to a nearly normal life.
4How is ankle replacement done?
Ankle replacement surgery is most often done while you are under general anesthesia. ... Your surgeon will make a surgical cut in the front of your ankle to expose the ankle joint. Your surgeon will then gently push the tendons, nerves, and blood vessels to the side
5What is the success rate of ankle replacement?
Total ankle arthroplasty revealed a five-year survival rate of 78 percent and a 10-year survival rate of 77 percent.1 The revision rate for total ankle replacement was 7 percent and the revision rate for ankle arthrodesis was 9 percent with the main reason being nonunion.
6How long does a ankle replacement last?
How long will a total ankle replacement last? Ankle Replacement: The technology is still evolving, but we are hopeful to get at least 10-20 years out of the replacement. The more high-impact activities you do, the faster you go through the lifespan of the joint replacement.
7Which is better ankle fusion or ankle replacement?
Ankle replacement tends to have more risks associated with it, however, than ankle fusion. And the results of this surgery may not last as long as ankle fusion for some people. But ankle replacement surgery does provide more mobility. In the right person, ankle replacement can be an excellent choice.
8What can I expect after ankle replacement surgery?
You may have significant pain right after your surgery, but pain medicines may help ease the pain. The pain should begin to diminish over a few days, and you should have less pain than before your surgery. After your surgery, you will probably need to wear a splint for a couple of weeks.
9Why would you need an ankle replacement?
Total ankle replacement surgery is also called ankle arthroplasty, and it's used to replace damaged bone and cartilage in the ankle joint. Using artificial joint parts can help relieve pain, and unlike an ankle fusion procedure, it can also improve motion in your ankle.
10Who is a good candidate for ankle replacement?
The best candidate for an ankle replacement is a healthy person with ankle arthritis who has minimal or no deformity or malalignment of the ankle. In general, an ankle replacement will function best in patients who are less active and not overweight.

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