Although arthritis in the ankle is less common than in the hip or knee, it affects many people, causing pain and disability.
Ankle replacement will often be recommended for patients who, due to age or infirmity, will be somewhat restricted in the level of physical activity in which they engage after surgery.
The attraction of ankle replacement is that it preserves a useful amount of movement whilst effectively relieving pain. This is of particular advantage to patients who have arthritis in other joints of the leg because the ability of the ankle to move will lessen the strain upon those joints. Recovery in all cases takes several months and during this time swelling of the foot and altered sensation due to 'bruising' to nerves in the skin are a feature. Regaining movement requires considerable effort from the patient and even so, some patients may never obtain the ability to pull the foot up so that it is at 90 degrees to the leg and this can make it awkward to walk in bare feet.
An incision (cut) is made over the front of the ankle. Sometimes patients require additional surgery to correct the alignment of the foot. The degenerate surfaces are cleared away and, if necessary, re-shaped to correct any deformity. The joint is placed into the correct position and metal surfaces with a plastic insert are used to become the replaced 'joint'. Your ankle will then be protected by a plaster cast for approximately four weeks.
The operation usually takes one and a half hours and is usually done under a general anaesthesia (asleep). A lower leg block anaesthesia is used to provide pain relief following the procedure. The anaesthetist will discuss the most suitable method of anaesthesia for you.
Read more about total ankle replacement:
A patient's guide to total ankle replacement