Pacific Rim Orthopedic Surgeons

Ankle Joint Replacement

Ankle replacement surgery, or ankle arthroplasty, treats ankle arthritis and several other conditions that affect the joint. The operation can help reduce ankle pain, better joint stability, and improve overall mobility. It's important to note that ankle arthroplasty is used as a last resort when other treatments fail to relieve pain or restore the ankle joint.

What is Ankle Replacement Surgery?

Ankle replacement surgery is a type of joint replacement surgery that replaces the damaged parts of the ankle with plastic or metal parts (prosthetics). The prosthetics function together as a natural joint would and are usually recommended for patients with ankle arthritis.

doctor going over ankle replacement with an elderly woman.

Candidates for Ankle Arthroplasty

As mentioned earlier, ankle arthroplasty is usually performed for people with arthritis in their ankle due to the condition thinning the cartilage and making it rougher. Ankle arthritis can occur in patients of any age and usually results from wear and tear. Arthritis in the ankle joint can also result from repeated ankle injuries, fractures, or other health conditions.

The symptoms of arthritis in the ankle include:

  • difficult walking
  • pain in the joint
  • swelling in the joint

It’s important to note that not all patients with ankle arthritis can have ankle replacement surgery. People with conditions or medical issues such as:

  • severely deformed or unstable ankles
  • bone infections
  • circulatory problems
  • diabetes
  • Obesity

aren’t usually able to have the procedure done, which is why an orthopedic doctor or surgeon will order an X-ray and perform a physical exam. If you’re not a candidate for ankle replacements, do not worry; there are other types of ankle surgery that can help restore your ankle and relieve pain.

Over shoulder view of middle-aged surgeon showing foot X-ray to female patient while having appointment, close-up shot.

Ankle Replacement Procedure: What to Expect

Prior to surgery, it’s important to talk with the orthopedic team to discuss realistic expectations about the results and recovery, ensuring you understand the healing process and any recommendations they make to help prepare for surgery. You’ll want to take steps to prepare your home and ensure you have help.

Total ankle replacement surgery is typically an inpatient procedure but is usually a single-night stay post-surgery. The operation itself consists of:

  • general anesthesia or a nerve block is administered
  • An incision is made in the front of the affected ankle
  • the damaged and degenerated bone and cartilage is removed
  • The prosthesis is inserted and the range of motion is checked
  • Surgical steps are taken to ensure proper ankle/foot alignment remains with the prosthesis

Recovery from Ankle Replacement

Recovery from ankle surgery can take between six and twelve months, during this time a patient will likely be restricted to using crutches or a walker while wearing a splint or cast to help keep weight off the ankle and prevent it from moving. Your surgeon will also prescribe medications to prevent blood clots and recommend physical therapy to regain mobility. 

The rehabilitation process for ankle arthroplasty typically includes:

  • Gait training to help you stand and walk.
  • Massage to decrease swelling.
  • Strengthening exercises.
  • Stretches for a range of motion and flexibility.
  • Weight-bearing activities that get harder over time. 
Highlighted foot of woman on treadmill.

Make an Appointment with our Orthopedic Surgeons

We at Proliance Pacific Rim Orthopedic Surgeons strive to help our patients achieve a return to normal activity through compassionate and exceptional care using evidence-based medicine in a patient-friendly environment. We are committed to bringing you a high standard of care that is patient-focused, with the goal of improving your quality of life.