What is an ankle replacement?
The goal of a total ankle replacement (TAA) is to improve ankle motion and alleviate pain experienced during exercise. TAA is considered in patients who experience ankle pain and decreased function from arthritis after trying other conservative management options. Other candidates are those who may benefit (but don't want) a fusion-type procedure as it would eliminate some of the motion at the ankle joint. When motion of the ankle is preserved in a TAA, the surrounding joints are protected from increased wear. This helps preserve the surrounding joints from arthritis.
What levels of deformity may be corrected?
An ankle replacement can correct up to a 15 degree varus or valgus at the ankle joint. Beyond this degree of deformity, there can be problems with the nature and magnitude of forces through the plastic spacer.
What happens after the procedure?
After undergoing an ankle replacement, you'll spend 1-2 days in hospital. Post-surgery, you'll need to remain non-weight bearing for six weeks in a range of motion boot. This will stabilise the ankle joint during the rehabilitation period. You'll need to wear this for twelve weeks after surgery. Crutches or a rehabilitation aid such as a knee scooter, will also need to be organised before surgery.
You should expect some pain and swelling following surgery which will be alleviated by oral medication. You will also need to keep your leg elevated.
You will likely be examined at 1 week, 4 weeks, 6 weeks and 12 weeks, 6 months and 1year post-operatively. Between 4-6 weeks after sugery, you may be able to begin weight bearing in the boot, though you will continue to wear this for another six weeks.