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Alleviating Ankle Pain with Ankle Replacement

September 19, 2017

An illustration of the ankle bones over a person's legThe ankle is under daily stress. It supports the body's weight as we walk and run every day. An injury to the ankle or the wear and tear of constant use can cause some to experience ankle pain severe enough to interfere with quality of life. Ankle surgery from orthopaedic specialist Andrew Ebert can help alleviate pain and restore ankle function, allowing patients to enjoy the activities ankle pain once caused them to give up.

Ankle replacement is one type of ankle surgery offered to our Austin, TX patients that can preserve and improve ankle motion while also reducing pain. To find out if ankle replacement is right for you, please contact us to schedule a consultation.

The Ankle Replacement Procedure

Ankle replacement, also called ankle arthroplasty, is a procedure used to relieve pain and preserve motion in ankles affected by arthritis. Ankle replacement is specifically used to replace the cartilage that cushions the ankle joint from the tibia, or shin bone, with an artificial joint made of metal and polyethylene.

During ankle replacement surgery, incisions are made along the front and sides of the ankle. These incisions are used to access the damaged ankle joint. The damaged bone and cartilage is then smooth and the artificial joint is attached to the bone. Incisions are closed and the ankle bandaged.

Recovering from Ankle Replacement Surgery

After ankle replacement surgery, it is normal for patients to experience some pain and swelling around the ankle. Pain may be managed with prescribed pain medication and swelling may be reduced by keeping the ankle elevated and applying ice compresses. Both pain and swelling should decrease as the body heals.

Patients generally need to wear a splint for several weeks to support the ankle. Crutches are commonly needed during recovery, as patients should not put their full weight on the ankle until it has sufficiently healed.

Physical therapy is often recommended after ankle replacement surgery to help maintain leg and ankle strength and ensure proper range of motion for the ankle joint. Even with physical therapy, it can take several months to regain full use of the ankle. 

The Risks of Ankle Replacement Surgery

For most patients, ankle replacement surgery is highly successful and free of complications. However, as with any surgery, there are some potential risks to be aware of when considering ankle replacement surgery, such as:

  • Nerve damage
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Artificial joint wearing out
  • Artificial joint becoming loose and requiring a secondary surgery
  • The bones not properly aligning after surgery

Candidates for Ankle Replacement Surgery

Ideal candidates for ankle replacement surgery include those who have arthritis in the ankle (whether osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or arthritis from a prior injury), and minimal or no deformity of the ankle bone. Those with severe arthritis symptoms in their ankle, such as inflammation, difficulty walking, joint stiffness, or severe pain may benefit from ankle replacement surgery.

Candidates should also be in good general health and free of such issues as uncontrolled diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease, as these can cause issues with wound healing and increase the risk of infection and other complications. Additionally, ideal candidates should not be overweight as excess weight can put too much strain on the ankle, causing issues with healing as well as leading to other complications down the road.

Schedule a Consultation

For more information about ankle replacement, we welcome you to schedule a consultation today.