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. Or he or she may suggest over-the-counter medicine.
For several weeks you will continue the rehabilitation program (rehab) you may have started in the hospital. The better you do with your rehab exercises, the sooner you will get your strength and movement back. 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.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
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.
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 most full 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” patients 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.