Ankle Replacement Surgery

Ankle replacement is a surgical procedure in which the damaged parts of the ankle joint are removed and replaced with implants. The goal is to reduce pain and restore movement to your ankle.

How is it performed?

The surgery typically takes 2-3 hours and is done in several steps:

  • The surgeon makes an incision on the front of the ankle, near the top of the foot.
  • The surgeon removes the damaged parts of the ankle joint. This involves cutting away damaged cartilage and bone, and making room for the new implants.
  • The surgeon places the new implants in position and tests the movement of the ankle.
  • When the implants are secured and all procedures are complete, the surgeon closes the incision. The ankle is bandaged and usually put in a splint or cast.

To learn more about ankle implants used in the surgery, please see the sections CADENCE Total Ankle System and/or SALTO TALARIS Total Ankle Prosthesis.

What is recovery like?

Every patient is unique, so the recovery experience varies from patient to patient. Several factors may affect the length of your recovery period, your pain level, and outcome. The material below is for informational purposes only. To learn more about what to expect for your specific situation, talk to your surgeon and healthcare team.

  • Most patients are able to return to basic activities of living – such as dressing and grooming – within 2 weeks after surgery. However, you’ll have restrictions on movement, walking, and putting weight on your ankle. Patients typically use crutches, a wheelchair, or scooter during the recovery period.
  • Incision stitches are usually removed between 10 and 21 days after surgery.
  • Your surgeon will determine when it’s safe for you to put weight on your ankle and move more freely. For many patients, putting weight on the ankle is permitted around 6 weeks after surgery. Walking and physical therapy may begin 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. Physical therapy is an important part of the recovery process and can help with swelling, pain and stiffness, and rebuilding your ankle strength.
  • Patients typically stop wearing a cast, boot, or brace around 12 weeks after surgery. Again, your surgeon will guide you in this phase and all phases of the recovery period.

When will I get full use of my ankle?

Full ankle function may take up to 6 months. Swelling may continue for 6-12 months.

Keep in mind that even after the recovery period, you may still need to follow activity restrictions. For example, many surgeons advise patients to avoid contact sports after ankle replacement, and to avoid repetitive impact activities that put too much strain or wear on the ankle implant. Talk to your surgeon if you have questions about doing a specific activity after surgery.

Will I have pain?

It’s natural to experience some level of pain after surgery. Many patients finish taking prescription pain medication 5 to 7 days after surgery.

The initial pain from the surgery should decrease over time. You may have soreness, but that should also decrease in the weeks and months following surgery. Call your surgeon if you have an increase in pain, swelling, fever, or drainage in your incision area.

Am I a good candidate for ankle replacement surgery?

Only your surgeon can determine if you’re a good candidate for ankle replacement surgery. In general, healthy patients with painful or disabling ankle arthritis that has failed to improve with non-surgical treatments are candidates for ankle replacement.

What are the risks of surgery?

Like all surgeries, ankle replacement has risks. Some of the risks of ankle replacement surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Bending, breaking, loosening, or shifting of an implanted component
  • Bone breakage or bone loss
  • Problems with blood clotting, blood vessels, or nerves

This is not a complete list of risks or possible complications. Talk to your surgeon for more information on the risks of ankle replacement surgery.

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Every patient’s case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor’s specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.