What is ankle replacement surgery?
Ankle replacement is a surgical procedure that involves replacing the ankle joint with an artificial implant.
“Most people have heard of the more common hip and knee replacements. Something I really enjoy doing is the lesser-known ankle replacement surgery,” says CU Medicine orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Courtney Grimsrud. “The procedure involves replacing the ankle joint with metal and polyethylene, which is basically a plastic spacer that acts like the joint space.”
Ankle replacement surgery is usually performed on those with ankle arthritis and the typical age range is over 60 years old. Candidates for the surgery are usually suffering from symptoms like inflammation, pain, stiffness and have a hard time doing daily activities like walking. Ankle arthritis is commonly a result of trauma to the ankle in the past or due to deformity of the ankle.
Ankle replacement vs ankle fusion
Ankle arthrodesis, also known as ankle fusion, is the fusing of the bones in the ankle together in one piece. The procedure has been around much longer than ankle replacement and has been proven to be a successful solution for ankle arthritis. Ankle fusion has limitations in terms of what kind of activities recipients can resume after fusion. For those looking to maintain ankle mobility and get back to activities like hiking and skiing, ankle replacement may be a better option than ankle fusion. Dr. Grimsrud explains, “Our only option in the past for ankle arthritis was ankle fusion. The ankle replacement allows the patient to have motion of their ankle.”
Getting back to life after ankle replacement
Patients who receive an ankle replacement are usually immobilized for 2 weeks following the surgery. After those two weeks, patients can begin to bear weight on the ankle in a boot. Patients are then put on a physical therapy plan to get the ankle moving and rehabilitated back to the previous range of motion before surgery. “The goal for a patient who has an ankle replacement is to be able to walk and bike without a brace or pain. They can wear regular shoes and do activities of daily living without pain after an ankle replacement,” explains Dr. Grimsrud.
Patients can usually do the following activities post-surgery and rehabilitation:
- Most low-impact activities
The only popular activity that is not recommended for ankle replacement patients is running, due to its high impact on the ankle joint.