Total Ankle Replacement Surgery FAQs

How do I know if I need ankle replacement surgery?

If conservative, non-surgical treatments such as medications, orthopedic aids, anti-inflammatory injections, physical therapy, and other interventions are no longer helpful for relieving pain, you may be a candidate for total ankle replacement surgery.

Contraindications for ankle replacement surgery would be neuropathy, active infection, certain deformities, severe peripheral arterial disease, and poor bone quality. Also, having prolonged immune-suppression may be contraindication due to an increase in risk of wound complications and possible risk of the implant not healing properly. If you have high physical demands such as athletics or work demands, you should discuss your options with your surgeon as you may not be a good candidate for ankle replacement surgery.

What are some of the causes of ankle pain and dysfunction?

  • Osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease – the so-called “wear and tear” type of arthritis. This usually occurs in older people, but not always. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that cushions the bones gets worn away leading to the bones of the joint rubbing together. Stiffness and pain in the joint are typical symptoms.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis – this can come after an injury, usually a serious one, to the joint. Fractures of the bones, and tears in tendons and ligaments can lead to damage of the joint surfaces. Rotator cuff tear is a well known cause of damage to the shoulder joint. Over time, the damaged rotator cuff may lead to arthritic changes in the joint. Pain and reduced range of motion are common symptoms.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with multiple joint involvement is not necessarily a contraindication for total ankle replacement. Total ankle replacement may be a better alternative for patients with RA than would an ankle fusion/arthrodesis.

How long will I be at the Surgery Center?

You may be at the Center for up to 24 hours after your surgery. Your surgeon may request that you go to a rehab facility following discharge from the center for further physical therapy or you may return home for at home physical therapy.

Can a family member stay with me?

Your family can stay with you until you are taken to the operating room. Your family may stay in the waiting room or leave and provide a contact number. Our staff can notify your family/friend when it is an appropriate time to return to stay with you. Your ride may want to bring a pillow and blanket for you for the car ride home.

How long does ankle surgery take?

The surgical procedure can take approximately 3 hours. Some of this time is required for the anesthesiologist to make sure that you are comfortable, and for the nursing staff to take care of you immediately before and after surgery.

How long is recovery after ankle replacement surgery?

After the procedure you may be asked to use an icing device to help control pain and swelling. For approximately 6 weeks after the surgery, you will wear a boot or splinting device and use crutches to help prevent excessive movement in the ankle while it is healing. After about 2 weeks you will likely begin physical therapy exercises to begin strengthening the muscles around the joint and help promote mobility in the joint. It may take up to 2 to 3 months post-surgery before you can put your full weight on the ankle and foot. By 6-12 months post-surgery you should be able to do many of the activities you enjoyed prior to the surgery.

There are a few precautions that you should take now that you have had total ankle joint replacement surgery. Avoid any activities that cause excessive, enduring pain. Avoid any activities that can cause excessive motion in the ankle joint or excessive stresses on the joint. Don’t forget to keep the muscles in your leg and foot active to maintain strength in the area.

What are the complications of ankle replacement surgery?

Some possible complications of ankle replacement surgery are the risk of infection, damage to the nerves in the area of surgery, excessive bleeding or blood clots, improper union of the implant to the bone, misalignment of the bones, arthritis forming in other joints of the foot and ankle, loosening of the implanted components over time which may require follow up surgery to correct. Your surgeon with discuss these any other possible complications which may pertain to your particular condition.