A damaged ankle joint can be debilitating when the pain is so bad that you have trouble walking and staying active. Joint damage is often caused by arthritis, but it could also happen after an injury. Your doctor might try managing your pain with other treatments first, but when your quality of life is affected and other treatments don't work, your doctor might recommend an ankle replacement. Here's a look at what this surgery entails.
A Short Hospital Stay Is Usually Necessary
An ankle replacement procedure usually requires a short stay in the hospital of a few days, even if you're otherwise healthy. If you have medical conditions, you may need to stay longer. The surgery is usually done with general anesthesia, so you'll sleep throughout the process and won't feel anything until you wake up later. You'll have pain after the surgery, but you'll receive pain medications in the hospital to manage it.
As soon as you're recovered enough, you'll go home to begin the long rehabilitation period. It's important to prepare your home in advance for your recovery so you have everything you need within easy reach and can manage your affairs while on bed-rest or using crutches.
The Surgery Replaces Your Damaged Joint
The purpose of the ankle replacement procedure is to remove the damaged portions of your ankle joint and replace them with artificial materials. Doing this eliminates the cause of your pain. Your ankle joint is where your leg bone meets your foot bone and glides over cartilage. The surgeon may need to remove the tips of the two bones as well as the cartilage. To do this, it's necessary to cut through other tissues in your ankle, and this is one reason this surgery has a long recovery period.
The surgeon puts caps on the tips of the bones. These are often made of metal that's compatible with the body. The caps might be held in place with screws. Then, a plastic cartilage substitute is inserted between the bones. This gives you a new joint that allows movement front to back and side to side. The ability to still move your ankle is one reason a joint replacement is preferred over a joint fusion when you're a good candidate for the replacement procedure.
Your Activities May Be Limited Permanently
Your activities are restricted immediately after the surgery because the tissues in your ankle need to heal. You'll gradually start doing more using crutches at first and then graduating to exercises with physical therapy. You'll eventually return to a more normal routine where you can walk and maintain an active lifestyle and do things like swim and play golf. However, you might not be able to play sports after an ankle replacement, and you might not be allowed to run.
An ankle replacement doesn't restore your ankle movement to a completely normal range of motion, and the replacement is at risk of damage if you twist your ankle or overuse it with strenuous sports, so you'll need to be protective of your new ankle. However, the replacement eliminates pain from joint damage and can improve your life in many ways by allowing you to work and stay socially active without pain and limited mobility.Share