When you develop ankle arthritis, over time, it can cause wear and tear on your ankle joint. If the damage gets severe enough, the only option is to perform surgery on the joint.
If your ankle is severely worn down, a cutting-edge procedure called ankle joint replacement surgery can help your joint work like new again. Understand from Thomas Rambacher, DPM, FACFAS, FAPWCA, at Podiatry Hotline Foot & Ankle in Mission Viejo, California, how an ankle joint replacement can help you.
What is ankle joint replacement surgery?
Ankle joint replacement surgery involves removing and replacing your damaged ankle joint with an artificial ankle joint. Before placing the artificial joint, Dr. Rambacher makes an incision into your ankle and removes the damaged joint and any surrounding damage in nearby bones and tissues.
Next, he uses your remaining healthy bone to attach the artificial ankle joint. He uses sturdy plastic and special cement to ensure everything attaches seamlessly.
After fully recovering from the joint replacement surgery, you can expect to be in significantly less pain. You’ll be able to return to your active lifestyle and resume most activities you love.
Why get an ankle joint replacement?
Ankle joint replacement surgery is a good option if your ankle arthritis is severe or not responding to more conservative treatment measures. If your ankle joint is significantly worn down from arthritis, the only option is often surgery.
Ankle joint replacement surgery might also be right for you if you’re experiencing high amounts of inflammation, pain, or stiffness that conservative treatment hasn’t addressed. This surgery can help you feel better and return to activities you enjoyed before developing ankle arthritis.
The advantages of an ankle joint replacement over joint fusion surgery
Joint fusion surgery is a well-known surgery also performed by Dr. Rambacher. In this surgery, Dr. Rambacher fuses your ankle bones together with screws and metal plates.
After joint fusion surgery, you’ll experience reduced pain and arthritis symptoms. However, you’ll also have a more limited range of motion in your ankle than if you get an ankle joint replacement.
An artificial ankle joint mimics the movement of your original joint, allowing for a similar range of motion. Walking and playing sports with an artificial ankle is easier than a fused joint.
Ankle joint replacement surgery is also easier on your other joints near the ankle. You’re less likely to develop arthritis in areas like your knee or hip than if you get joint fusion surgery.
What to expect from ankle joint replacement surgery
Usually, ankle joint replacement surgery takes place under general anesthesia, which means you’re asleep during the surgery. After you wake up, you can usually go home to recover on the same day as the surgery.
After surgery, you can expect to wear a splint for a couple of weeks, then wear a boot and walk on crutches for up to several weeks. Following Dr. Rambacher’s aftercare instructions and attending all follow-up appointments helps you make a smooth recovery.
Once you can start putting weight on the artificial joint, Dr. Rambacher often recommends physical therapy to restore your flexibility and strength in the joint. After several months, you can usually return to doing all the activities you love.
Ankle joint replacements are highly durable, with over 90% lasting more than a decade after surgery.
If you have ankle arthritis, Dr. Rambacher can determine if joint replacement surgery or another treatment is best for you. Contact us to learn more about the arthritis care we offer.