Total ankle replacement is a joint replacement surgery. It is a procedure in which a surgeon replaces the bones, ligaments, and tendons of your ankle joint with artificial materials. The surgery involves removing damaged tissue from the ankle joint, replacing it with an artificial joint, and then reattaching tendons and muscles around the new implant. Dr Jeffrey E. McAlister, a foot and ankle surgeon at Phoenix Foot and Ankle Institute, can perform the procedure.
A total ankle replacement aims to replace both bones in your lower leg — the tibia and fibula — with artificial ones that mimic those found in healthy ankles. Physicians can design the artificial joints to mimic the natural flexibility of human ankles or be stiffer so they don’t move as much when you walk, run or jump.
Your ankle and foot specialists might recommend a total ankle replacement if you have:
Bone infection or osteomyelitis
Infection of the ankle joint can occur when bacteria enter the bloodstream and travel to the bones. The condition is known as septic arthritis, one of the adults’ most common causes of ankle replacement.
Osteomyelitis is a bacterial infection that attacks the bone marrow and soft tissue around it. It can cause swelling and pain in the joint, as well as redness, heat, and swelling of nearby muscles. If you have this condition, your orthopedic surgeon will likely recommend an ankle replacement to treat it.
A bony spur
Sometimes called a “bone spur,” this condition involves small bone growths outside your ankle bone that can cause inflammation and pain. Specialists can surgically remove this type of spur, but sometimes it is impossible to remove without causing damage to nearby tissue or nerves. That can lead to further problems after surgery, such as nerve damage or chronic pain from surgery scarring or adhesions (tissue that binds together). If this happens, a foot and ankle specialist may recommend a total ankle replacement because it offers a faster recovery time than other types of surgeries for these types of conditions.
A severe form of arthritis causes an over-extension (lengthening) of the ankle joint, leading to a loss of motion in your foot. That can make it difficult for you to walk, run or even stand straight. An ankle replacement can help you regain flexibility and normal movement in your feet and legs, improving your quality of life.
A traumatic injury
Traumatic injuries can damage the soft tissue, ligaments, and tendons that support your joints. These injuries are often treated with surgical fusion, where tissue is sliced into pieces and rejoined with metal mesh or platelets. The treatment restores much of what was lost during the injury, including a range of motion in your ankles, knees, and hips previously limited by damaged soft tissues. You may have had a traumatic injury to any of these areas of your body, particularly your ankles. In that case, your doctor might recommend a total ankle replacement as part of your treatment plan to restore mobility in these parts of your body again.
A bone cancer
Bone cancer is a type of tumor that affects the bones of your legs, arms, or feet. It is usually treated using chemotherapy and radiation therapy to shrink the tumor before removing it surgically. However, if it has spread to other parts of your body, such as your bones or organs, it may be too dangerous for doctors to resect the tumor without causing additional damage to nearby tissue. In this case, your doctor may recommend a total ankle replacement.
Ankle replacements have become more common over the years, especially for patients who play sports. If you are suffering from pain in your foot and ankle and suspect that you have an injury or infection, call Phoenix Foot and Ankle.