Most of us are familiar with knee and hip replacements, but did you know you can also have an ankle replacement? Also known as total ankle arthroplasty, this surgical procedure involves replacing the ankle joint with an implant. Performed by orthopedic and foot and ankle surgeons, this has become a more commonly accepted practice than ankle fusion, with its use more than doubling between 2011 and 2012 alone.
Used to treat osteoarthritis, arthritis caused by injury, rheumatoid arthritis, infections and dislocations, total ankle arthroplasty aims to improve ankle mobility, alleviate pain and ultimately improve one’s quality of life. In contrast, ankle fusion—used to treat similar conditions—limits mobility and prevents a “natural” rotation of the ankle joint.
Surgery is often performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon makes an incision, exposing the ankle joint. The shin-bone, or tibia, is cut above the “old” ankle, and the top of the foot bone, or talus, is cut below it. Metal joints, covered by plastic, are attached to the respective bones. This plastic prevents wear on the metal components, increasing longevity and offering a more fluid rotation. After the implant is attached, the tendons are put back in place, and the leg is closed up.
This procedure is usually reserved for cases that do not respond to conservative management, such as bracing, physical therapy, modification of activity or medicines. Typically, the procedure is performed on patients between the ages of 40 and 60, though it has even been successful with patients in their 80s.
If you are experiencing persistent pain in your ankle, speak to your physician about an ankle replacement. Should you undergo this procedure, we will work with you and your physician on a customized rehabilitation plan that will get you back to enjoying your usual daily activities using your brand new ankle.