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FAQs About Total Ankle Replacement For Arthritic Patients

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If your arthritis has gotten so bad that the cartilage between your talus (ankle) and shin bones has been destroyed, your podiatrist may recommend a total ankle replacement surgery or ankle arthroplasty.

During this procedure, a doctor would replace the cartilage in your ankle with metal bearings that firmly attach to the bones. Read on to learn more answers to questions you may have about this procedure.

How Does this Surgery Help Your Arthritis?

Arthritis causes inflammation and destroys the cartilage between bones. If your arthritis has destroyed a lot of cartilage in your ankle, then you may experience pain since bones will be rubbing against bones without cushioning and lubrication. The metal implants will imitate a healthy ankle joint, so that you can find relief from arthritis pain. If you've been experiencing stiffness from your arthritis, then a total ankle replacement can restore your natural gait and range of motion.

Are You a Good Candidate for this Surgery?

Surgery is usually a last resort when other treatments have failed. If you cannot control your arthritis pain with braces or over-the-counter medication, then surgery might be a good option. People who are physically active and in relatively good health are good candidates for this type of surgery.

If you have medical problems like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or poor circulation, you may not be a good candidate since there is a higher risk of infection. However, some people with contraindications may be candidates for another kind of surgery called ankle fusion. During this surgery, the ankle joint is secured with screws so that it cannot move upward or downward. While you may eliminate a good range of motion, an ankle fusion could eliminate your arthritis pain.

What is Recovery Like?

After surgery, you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days until your pain levels decrease so that you don't need IV medication. It's important to stay in the hospital for a few days so that the doctors can monitor your gait and make sure you can walk safely with crutches.

At home, you should rest as much as possible, eat a nutritious diet, and wear a boot or splint so that the surgical incision can heal quickly. After a month or two, your podiatrist will take x-rays and will let you know when you can place more weight on your ankle.

During your recovery, your doctor may also recommend adjunctive treatments like physical therapy to reduce scar tissue and gain strength. He or she may recommend lymphatic massage to reduce edema and encourage healing. He or she may also recommend ice packs and elevating the ankle to reduce any swelling and bruising.

Contact a podiatrist in your area to learn more about ankle replacement surgery and how it can help your arthritis.