Ankle replacement (total ankle arthroplasty) is major surgery to reduce ankle pain. A surgeon removes the lower part of the shin bone (tibia) and top of the highest bone on the foot (talus). The ankle is replaced with plastic or metal pieces.
Your doctor may use general anesthesia. This means you'll be asleep during the surgery. But sometimes doctors use regional anesthesia. This means you can't feel the area of the surgery. You will feel sleepy, but you'll be awake. Which type of anesthesia you get depends on your doctor and on your overall health. Your doctor might also ask what you prefer.
Then the doctor makes a cut (incision) in your leg, where the ankle is. The doctor will remove some of the bones of your ankle and replace them with an artificial joint. The incision leaves a scar that usually fades with time.
Your doctor will let you know if you will stay in the hospital or if you can go home the day of surgery. Your rehabilitation program (rehab) may start when you are in the hospital. You will do this rehab for several weeks.
It takes at least 4 months to return to full activity. But if you can keep your weight off the leg for about 3 weeks, you may be able to go back to work sooner.
After surgery and rehab, you probably will have much less pain than before. And you should be able to return to your usual activities. But your doctor may advise you not to do activities that put stress on that ankle, such as standing for too long or running.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: September 20, 2018
Steven J. Atlas, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine & Thomas M. Bailey, MD, CCFP - Family Medicine
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