Total Ankle Replacement

Overview

Ankle Replacement Surgery: Keeping You in Motion

Until a few years ago, ankle pain had few satisfactory treatments. Today, ankle replacement offers a way to dramatically reduce ankle pain and help you stay active – from biking and working to playing with your grandchildren.

Also known as total ankle arthroplasty, ankle replacement surgically replaces a damaged ankle with an artificial ankle joint.

The Aurora Difference

Leaders in Total Ankle Replacement

At Aurora Health Care, we’ve performed total ankle replacement since 2000. That means we successfully completed some of the first ankle replacements in Wisconsin. Since then, we have completed hundreds of ankle replacements, offering expertise that you can trust.

We offer:

  • Highly skilled surgeons: Our ankle replacement orthopedic surgeons have fellowship training in foot and ankle surgery. That means that in addition to their specialty in orthopedics, they’ve completed extra education specifically focused on the complex ankle joint and foot. They also have years of experience providing successful ankle replacement surgery.
  • Arthroscopic procedures: Some surgeons provide arthroscopic surgery. These procedures require smaller incisions, because surgeons can repair or replace the joint using small, specialized tools called arthroscopes. Arthroscopic surgery is known for less scarring and faster recovery.
  • Comprehensive physical therapy: Specially trained orthopedic physical therapists can help you get back on your feet with comprehensive rehabilitation. Orthopedic physical therapy is available at convenient locations across eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Find orthopedic physical therapy.

Total Ankle Replacement

Ankle Replacement Surgery: Relieving Arthritis Pain

In the past, people with persistent ankle pain and stiffness had to choose between living with the pain and having an ankle fusion procedure. Total ankle replacement offers an alternative treatment for ankle arthritis (joint inflammation and stiffness).

Arthritis can begin because of normal wear and tear, aging or an ankle injury such as a fracture. Learn more about arthritis.

Total ankle replacement lets people maintain a range of ankle motion. Compared to ankle fusion, total ankle replacement is less likely to cause arthritis to extend to neighboring joints.

Total Ankle Replacement Surgery

In total ankle replacement, an orthopedic surgeon replaces damaged bone and cartilage (the coating that helps bones move smoothly) with an artificial joint. In some cases, the surgeon may also lengthen a tight Achilles tendon or calf muscle to improve the ankle’s mobility.

Total ankle replacement is a possible treatment for people who have tried other methods to relieve ankle pain. If you’ve tried physical therapy, bracing, changes in activity and medication without any relief, total ankle replacement may be right for you. If you haven’t tried less invasive methods, find out about other treatments for foot and ankle pain.

Ankle replacement surgery can help if you have:

  • Advanced arthritis
  • Significant joint stiffness and loss of mobility
  • Pain that makes daily activities hard
  • Ankle weakness that could require ankle fusion

Open or Arthroscopic Surgery?

Your surgeon will discuss your options and help you choose the best surgical approach for you. We offer traditional open surgery (which has an incision of about 2 inches or more) and arthroscopic surgery, which uses small incisions and specialized tools. Both methods have advantages.

Open surgeries:

  • Are shorter procedures
  • Provide very clear access to the nerves and small bones of the ankle
  • Make it simple for surgeons to manage complex reconstruction

Arthroscopic surgeries:

  • Require two or more smaller incisions (about 2 to 7 millimeters, or about one-quarter inch, each)
  • May offer faster healing of the incisions and faster overall recovery
  • Have less scarring

Before Surgery

Preparing for Ankle Replacement Surgery

Before your total ankle replacement surgery, we’ll be there to answer your questions and help you prepare.

During your pre-surgical visit with your care team, you’ll learn about:

  • Preparing your home for your return post-surgery
  • Choosing a care partner who can help you after surgery
  • Keeping your ankle elevated after surgery
  • Using a boot, crutches or walker for several weeks
  • Regaining strength and mobility through physical therapy after surgery
  • Quitting smoking, if you smoke, so that nicotine and other chemicals don’t interfere with your healing during surgery and recovery

Recovery

After Total Ankle Replacement

Ankle replacement surgery usually requires a stay of one or more nights in the hospital. During this time, we’ll care for you and help you begin moving. We may also offer slow-release anesthetics (pain relievers) to help you recover more comfortably.

After surgery, it’s important to keep your ankle elevated for several days to help it heal and minimize swelling.

Recovery After Ankle Surgery

You’ll probably return home within a day or two after ankle replacement surgery. Once you get home, you’ll need to keep weight off your new ankle for several weeks.

Depending on your doctor’s advice, you may begin range-of-motion therapy even while keeping weight off your ankle. As the ankle heals, you’ll begin other physical therapy.

A few weeks after surgery, we’ll remove your sutures (stitches) or staples. We’ll also take an X-ray to make sure your ankle is healing properly. As the ankle heals, you’ll be able to put weight on it. Gradually, you’ll be able to resume your normal activities.

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