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What is ankle replacement surgery?

Ankle replacement surgery is a procedure used to repair and/or replace damaged bones in the ankle joint. Debilitating ankle injuries and disease are the main reasons for ankle replacement surgery. This state-of-the-art procedure can relieve debilitating pain from injury or arthritis, retain movement in the ankle and improve walking ability.

What to expect

Ankle replacement surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia. Your orthopedic surgeon begins by making an incision in front of the ankle to expose the joint. The tendons, nerves and blood vessels are gently moved to the side to prevent them from being damaged during the surgery. Your surgeon then removes the damaged bone and any bone remnants. The surgeon will reshape the three bones of your ankle: the tibia, fibula and talus bones. Once the ankle bones are reshaped, the surgeon attaches the artificial joint to their ends. Generally made from metal and plastic parts, your new ankle joint is custom-fit and very durable. Bone cement and/or metal screws may be used to hold the fibula and tibia in place and provide further support for the ankle. A bone graft is then used to fuse the ends of the fibula and tibia to the implant. Together, these procedures create the utmost support within the structure of your ankle. The procedure is complete once the surgeon moves the tendons, nerves and blood vessels back into place and closes the area of incision with sutures.

Recovery

After ankle replacement surgery you will remain in the hospital for three to four days. Your ankle will be in a cast or a splint for five to eight weeks, depending on the extent of your injury. The use of crutches or a wheelchair will help you stay mobile while keeping pressure off your ankle. Your doctor will recommend that you keep your ankle elevated above chest level when you are resting or sleeping. This helps to reduce any swelling and pain in the ankle. Physical therapy is usually advised after surgery to help train you in the best ways to perform daily activities.

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