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Total ankle replacement, or total ankle arthroplasty, is a surgery that is performed to remove the damaged portions of the ankle bone and cartilage and replace them with artificial components. Ankle replacement surgery is often considered an alternative to ankle fusion.

Ankle replacement is performed to relieve pain as well as to restore and maintain the function of the ankle and foot and to help improve range of motion.

Although some people may need total ankle replacement after an injury, more often, the procedure is performed on people who are dealing with the effects of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Total ankle replacement will be performed if your condition is severe, or a nonsurgical treatment option will be used if your orthopaedic surgeon recommends it.

If an orthopaedic surgeon is considering ankle replacement surgery, he or she will ask you questions about your general health as well as your ankle pain and how it is impacting your ability to function. He or she will also perform a physical exam to assess the strength, range of motion, and condition of your ankle. To better understand the damage, your surgeon will have X-rays taken of your ankle.

Total ankle replacement takes place in a hospital, and the surgery itself takes approximately two to three hours. After you are given anesthesia, the orthopaedic surgeon will make an incision in the front of the ankle joint, but smaller incisions may also be made on the outside, depending on the type of artificial joint being implanted. The bone is then cut, which allows the surgeon to place the metal and plastic components in order to recreate the ankle joint. At this stage, the surgeon may also lengthen the calf muscle or Achilles tendon if they are tight, which will help improve the range of motion of the ankle. After these steps are complete, the orthopaedic surgeon will close the incisions.

Patients will return to a recovery room, where they will be monitored. Upon waking, the foot will be in dressing. Later, it will be placed in a cast or a boot. Ankle replacement patients will stay in the hospital for several days until they can walk safely using crutches or a walker. Patients will need to have the foot and ankle elevated as much as possible since this will help reduce swelling and improve wound healing.

After the wounds are healed, the doctor will likely ask you to start simple movement and non-weightbearing activities. Several weeks later, weight may be put on the ankle joint if it is healing well. Some patients may work with a physical therapist after ankle replacement surgery. Patients should expect to wear a boot or cast for several months and should carefully follow the guidance the doctor provides. As with any surgery, there is a risk of infection or blood clots.

Before recommending total ankle replacement, your doctor may suggest other treatments, such as steroid injections, medications, or bracing, in addition to avoiding activities that could make your symptoms worse.

If nonsurgical treatments are not helpful or no longer relieve pain, total ankle replacement could be a good option.

If patients have rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis and ankle pain is interfering with daily life—even while at rest—these patients may be good candidates for total ankle replacement. Also, if a patient's post-traumatic arthritis is due to an injury, he or she may also benefit from total ankle replacement.

Why choose Tidewater Orthopaedics?

If you are considering ankle replacement or ankle arthroplasty, you should seek out an orthopaedic surgeon with experience and training in performing ankle replacement surgeries to perform your procedure. With years of experience and advanced training devoted to the orthopaedic care of the ankle, our esteemed ankle surgeon at Tidewater Orthopaedics, Dr. Paul Maloof, is the unparalleled expert in accurately diagnosing and effectively treating ankle injuries and conditions.

Dr. Paul Maloof has the knowledge, proficiency, and skill to accurately diagnose and effectively treat your ankle injury or condition so you can get back to your active lifestyle quickly and safely. To consult with our Tidewater Orthopaedics surgeon, please request an appointment online or call (757) 827-2480.