• Need a new ankle? Joint replacement surgery can be a life-changer

    Orthopedics

    February 17, 2017

    Joint replacement surgery can be a life-changer

    If an arthritic ankle has you wincing and limping, even during a short stroll to the mailbox, you might wish you could just trade in your old joint for a new one.

    iStock-527686418.jpgWell, maybe you can.

    Just like worn-out hips and knees, damaged ankles can often be replaced with artificial ones.

    Out with the old, in with the new

    Total ankle replacement surgery can help people with debilitating ankle pain enjoy an active life again. It's become more common as the implant technology has improved.

    Typical candidates have severe arthritis or injuries and can no longer walk or perform daily activities without extreme pain. Most are in their 40s, 50s or 60s, though older adults are sometimes candidates too.

    During the surgery, the doctor makes an incision in the front of the ankle and removes the damaged bone and cartilage. Next, a prosthetic joint made of metal and plastic is implanted. Special cement may be used to hold the new joint in place. All of this takes about two hours and often requires just an overnight hospital stay.

    The road to recovery

    Your ankle will be in a cast or splint after surgery to help keep your ankle from moving.

    You may need to use crutches or a walker for several weeks to avoid putting weight on your new ankle. Full recovery can take up to six months. But once you're completely healed, you can typically expect to walk and move your ankle with little to no pain.

    An orthopedic surgeon can tell you more about the risks and benefits of ankle replacement and whether you may be a candidate.

    Sources: American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons; National Institutes of Health