What is Ankle Replacement Surgery?

Ankle Replacement Surgery is a procedure that replaces your ankle with an artificial implant. Your ankle is where your shinbone rests on the top of your foot. This procedure involves resurfacing the end of your shinbone and lower ankle bone with an artificial spacer in between them. Normal wear and tear can occur as your ankles are responsible for a lot in terms of mobility. This can lead to arthritis, which is a common reason for getting them replaced. The surgery is common and has an excellent rate of success. Patients also report less pain and more mobility after the procedure, showing it has a high percentage of effectiveness.

Candidates for Surgery

For those who suffer from chronic ankle pain, a replacement might be right for you. Chronic arthritis is the most common reason that people get replacement surgery. The damage that the condition does to your cartilage will cause pain because the cartilage is no longer there to cushion the bones. The lack of cushion means the bones are mainly grinding together, which causes both pain and problems for you. Always limping to alleviate one side or both can cause issues with other parts of your body. Getting diagnosed and treated as soon as possible limits more problems in the future.

What Happens During Ankle Replacement Surgery?

You will undergo general anesthesia for the surgery. Once you are under, the doctor will cut the front of your foot. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments will be pulled back to allow the doctor to get to your joints.

The doctor will then remove the damaged parts of your bones. Using specialized tools, the doctor will reshape the remaining portion of your bones, so the artificial replacement fits smoothly. A bone graft will also be inserted between your two leg bones. One is referred to as your tibia (the shin bone), and the other is your fibula (the smaller bone in your lower leg that runs parallel to your shin bone). This is done to fuse the two bones together to make sure the artificial ankle does not loosen in the future. The artificial portion is placed in your foot and set in place with bone cement and screws.

After the ankle has been replaced, the doctor will then reposition the muscles, tendons, and ligaments back into place. Lastly, the cut over the front of your foot will be stitched back together.

Recovery Time for Ankle Replacement Surgery

You will need to plan accordingly, as you will be in the hospital for a few days after surgery. Following the doctor’s orders and resting are the two most important things for your recovery. Once you are out of operation, your foot will be covered in splints and bandaging to keep it still. Your ankle must be kept still as the replacement will take time to settle fully. From day one, it is advised that you do not put any weight on your ankle for at least six weeks. You will need to use crutches and limit your movement as best as possible. You will experience swelling and discomfort, but this is entirely normal. Contact us if the pain gets worse or the swelling increases after you have been released from the hospital.

Due to the incision in your foot, the doctor will insert a drainage tube. This will help drain any excess blood or fluids after you are out of surgery. This is in for a short period of just one to two days. It will be removed before you leave the hospital. Your stitches will remain in until two weeks after surgery. It is essential to follow the instructions for taking care of your wound. Staying away from water and keeping the bandages fresh is important to stop any possible infections.

After The Surgery

After the surgery, you will also be referred to a physical therapist. The duration of physical therapy depends on the specific person, but you will definitely need to stay committed to treatment for a full and effective recovery. Below you will find a few more tips that will help with your recovery process and get you back to walking pain-free in no time!
Follow the doctor’s post-operation instructions.

  • Take all of your prescribed medications.
  • If you have any adverse reactions, contact us immediately.
  • Apply ice packs to help with swelling.
  • Elevate your foot above your heart when you are sitting down to reduce swelling.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol, as this can inhibit recovery.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep at least eight hours each night.
  • Ask for help when needed, as you will need to be careful and rest as much as possible.

Ankle Replacement Surgeon in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Stein is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with a specialty in foot and ankle orthopedics. Dr. Stein is focused on getting patients back to health and, most importantly, ensuring that they prevent the same or similar injury from occurring again. Contact Dr. Benjamin Stein for an appointment.