New technology has made ankle replacement surgery more successful than before. It has been found over 90% ankle replacements are in good state even after 10 years. The replaced ankle is as good as your natural ankle with greater function and longevity.
Patients for whom even little walking was a difficult task in itself were reported doing cycling and playing games like tennis post their replacement surgery. Thus, it is definitely a life changing medical surgery.
If your doctor has recommended ankle replacement, you should be aware of important aspects of this implant surgery to attain favorable outcome through the process.
Who undergo ankle replacement replacement surgery?
Replacement surgeries are only recommended when all the non-operative methods of treatment fail to respond. It is done when the ankle and foot joint is almost damaged and severe ankle pain restricts you from even walking. Mostly elderly patients with arthritis undergo ankle replacement surgery, although younger patients have also successfully went through the procedure.
Arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or post-traumatic) affects your foot and ankle joints causing continuous severe pain, stiffness, limping, and no motion.
Following are the conditions under which there is a possibility that your doctor may advise you ankle replacement surgery:
- Severe arthritis of the ankle
- Arthritis that has destroyed the ankle bone surfaces
- Ankle bones fracture due to an injury or accident
- Previous history of fracture causing degeneration of ankle bones
What is the ankle replacement procedure?
Ankle replacement surgery is a challenging one as it involves 29 small bones of foot and ankle and more than 30 joints compared to hip or knee replacement where only two bones are part of the surgery.
Seeing its complexity it is advisable that your surgeon should have experience in performing foot and ankle replacement surgeries. The artificial implants used in your surgery are made of metals and high quality plastic that are compatible with human body.
The surgery is of two types – partial and total ankle replacement.
1. Total ankle replacement (ankle arthroplasty)
It is advised when you are suffering with advanced ankle arthritis. The procedure helps to relieve pain and maintain motion in the ankle joint. If you have had ankle joint infections in the past, you may not be eligible for total replacement procedure.
2. Partial ankle replacement
As the name suggests, in this only the damaged parts of the ankle bones are replaced with most of natural joints intact.
Do ankle replacement surgeries have any complications?
Yes, but they are same as in any other surgical procedure. The possible complications can be infection, loosening, or nerve and blood vessel injury, or bone injury. In case, though very rare, if the ankle implant loosens over the years, revision surgery can be done to replace joint with a new implant.
There have been significant advances in foot and ankle replacement surgery, so risk and complications are rare. But you should clear all your doubts and queries from your surgeon.
Recovery after the ankle replacement surgery
After the replacement surgery, the stay in hospital would be of about two days. Your foot would be immobilized and in non-weight bearing state, i:e., you would not be allowed to put weight on the new ankle joint. It will be in a raised position to reduce swelling while you are sleeping or resting. The stitches will be removed within 10 to 12 days after the surgery.
The first few weeks would be of pain management with medications to ease pain after the surgery. Medications will be accompanied by gradual motion exercises by your physiotherapist. The splint has to be worn for throughout the day and removed only during physiotherapy session.
You will be using a crutch to move around for at least two to three weeks after the surgery. The complete recovery takes about three months. You can be back to normal activities without crutch like walking, cycling, golfing, swimming, driving etc. after three months. You should never start any new sport or new high-impact activity without consulting your surgeon.
How to increase the life expectancy of your ankle implant?
The life of your implant mainly depends upon your physical state, bone type, and activity level. The amount of physical stress on the foot post-surgery has the impact on longevity of your ankle implant. The careful use and regular exercise regime as suggested by your doctor can always help to increase the life of implant replacements.
Precautions after ankle replacement surgery
- Avoid high-impact actions such as weight lifting and any other action that puts stress on the ankle.
- Avoid activities that cause pain in the ankle for longer time
- Avoid ankle injuries
- Take healthy diet and control weight gain
- Consult your surgeon before taking up any new sport or activity
- Follow-up with doctor
- Follow regular exercise regime
Even if the pain subsides, let the recovery process be gradual and avoid doing too much too quickly. Remember, the duration of recovery and success of the overall replacement surgery varies with each patient based on age, medical conditions, healing potential, and lifestyle.
The replacement surgery would help you get rid of pain and allow free motion of your ankle in coordination with your leg and foot. And all this without crutches or wheelchair!
Also read Best joint replacement surgeons in India