You may be considering ankle replacement surgery because you are suffering from arthritis of the ankle. Arthritis is a group of conditions that causes damage to one or more joints. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis where the joints suffer gradual wear and tear. With rheumatoid arthritis, the cartilage is eventually worn away, causing the bone underneath to become damaged.
Common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness to the hands, feet and wrists, but any joint, including the ankle, may be affected.
Benefits to ankle replacement surgery
If your ankle replacement surgery is successful you should have less pain and find it easier to walk.
When other non-surgical methods no longer work and your arthritis becomes worse, your surgeon may consider a ankle replacement. Non-surgical methods are:
Painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen (brufen) to control the pain of arthritis
Supplements such as cod liver oil or glucosamine. Always check with your doctor before taking these
Wearing an elasticated support on your ankle
Regular exercise, which can help reduce stiffness in your ankle
Physiotherapy to help weak muscles
Keyhole surgery, which cleans or makes small repairs to the ankle joint, and may give temporary relief.
What will happen during my ankle replacement surgery?
When you meet with your consultant surgeon they'll ensure that you have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your ankle replacement, they'll discuss with you what'll happen before, during and after the procedure and any pain you might have. Take this time with your consultant surgeon to ensure your mind is put at rest. We know that having an operation of any type can be stressful so we've created two short downloadable guides that you might find useful to print off and use to write down any questions you may have. Do take this with you to your consultation.
The ankle replacement surgery operation
Your surgeon will recommend a suitable ankle replacement. During the ankle replacement surgery the surgeon will make a cut on the front of your ankle, remove the damaged surfaces, and replace these with an artificial ankle joint made of metal, plastic, ceramic, or a combination of these. The ankle replacement is then fixed to the bone with a special coating and your surgeon will close the skin with stitches or clips.
For more information, and if you have any queries about the procedure, speak to your consultant.
Continue your normal medication unless you are told otherwise.
These lifestyle changes can help make the operation a success:
Giving up smoking
Eating healthily. If overweight, you have a greater chance of developing complications
Exercising regularly. Your GP can recommend exercises.
Bleeding after surgery
Some pain is common with most operations
Infection of the surgical wound this usually settles with antibiotics, but further surgery may be required
Loosening of the ankle further surgery may be necessary
Infection in the ankle
Unsightly scarring of the skin, although ankle-replacement wounds usually heals to a neat scar.
This is not a definitive list and symptoms will vary with each patient. Please ask your consultant for more information.
Recovery from an ankle replacement surgery operation
You should be able to go home five to seven days after the ankle replacement surgery, however your surgeon may recommend you stay at hospital longer. You will be given exercises to do at home, which should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Remember, you will not be able to drive home after an ankle replacement.
Most people make a good recovery following ankle replacement surgery, however, an artificial ankle never feels quite the same as a normal ankle and the replacement can wear out with time. You will usually have an x-ray of your ankle at least every five years to check the position of your ankle replacement.
Paying for your operation | Self-Pay
Total ankle replacement surgery costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.