You are probably aware arthritic hips and knees are replaced quite frequently, but did you know an arthritic ankle can also be replaced? Ankle replacements in the United States are rapidly on the rise thanks, in part, to advancements in ankle implants (prostheses).
Total ankle replacement surgery involves replacing the damaged ankle joint with an artificial joint. The procedure can greatly improve function for those individuals who are unable to perform daily activities without experiencing severe pain. The most common causes of pain are arthritis and prior injuries. In the past, the best solution for these patients was a fusion of the ankle joint. This would help with the patient’s pain, but in return the ankle joint would no longer bend or flex.
Total ankle replacement is rapidly becoming the treatment of choice for this condition. Many foot and ankle surgeons believe fewer fusions will be performed and more ankle replacements will be completed as more implants become available and FDA approved.
Candidates for ankle replacement surgery are typically between the ages of 40 and 60. Unfortunately, not everyone is a candidate for an ankle replacement. People that have poor blood flow, loss of sensation or neuropathy, significant deformity or diabetes are not good candidates.
The procedure consists of making an incision on the front of the ankle. The surgeon removes the arthritic bone and cartilage from the tibia (leg portion of the ankle) and talus (foot portion of the ankle). The implant consists of two metal components and a plastic spacer that fits between the metal components. These are implanted to form a new ankle joint.
The procedure is performed in a hospital operating room setting with an overnight to possible two to three day stay in the hospital. Typical recovery consists of non-weight bearing on the operated ankle for a six-week duration and then protective weight bearing in a boot for four to six weeks.
The desired surgery goal is for patients to enjoy improved and pain free ankle function. Ankle implants generally last at least a decade. Many of the ankle replacements that have been implanted in the 1990s are still functioning well today. That will continue to improve with today’s advanced technology with the prosthesis and surgical techniques.
I have seen the significant increase in need for the procedure to be offered in the Lima area, as patients are heading to major metropolitan areas for this surgery. Multiple trips to and from these areas for post-operative care or potential complications can make the necessary short- and long-term follow-up difficult.
Over the years I have had extensive surgical training for this procedure. It is best for the patient to have the procedure performed locally by a well-trained foot and ankle surgeon. The proper and necessary short-term and long-term follow-up visits are more easily attained. Also, the patient can be seen and a prompt fashion for any potential problems or complications.
Total ankle replacement offers many advantages over previous treatment for severe ankle pain related to arthritis. The procedure offers the patient the possibility to decrease pain and improve functions and daily activities within reason. If you believe you are interested in learning more about this procedure, please call my office at 419-998-8278.
Eric C. Miller, DPM, is a foot and ankle surgeon at Midwest Surgical Specialists. He is board certified in reconstructive rearfoot and ankle surgery and board certified in foot surgery.