3 Reasons a Total Ankle Replacement is Right for You
You Have Ankle Arthritis
You may have been told by a doctor that you have arthritis. You may have figured this out for yourself too! Either way, you likely have pain, swelling, instability and stiffness (together) and difficulty with your normal activities because of the ankle. Arthritis tends to hurt more with changes in the weather and the ankle is often stiff in the mornings. You have tried over-the-counter medications and bracing but still have significant difficulties with the ankle. It is likely that you had a serious sprain or multiple sprains in the past; or you had a break (fracture) of the ankle. Most cases of ankle arthritis are due to prior trauma actually (about 80%). If indeed you have significant arthritis of the ankle that is symptomatic enough to change your lifestyle, you may benefit from an ankle replacement.
You Do Not Want a Fusion of the Ankle
If you have been diagnosed with ankle arthritis, perhaps your doctor recommended a fusion (arthrodesis) of the ankle. This is a surgery whereby the cartilage that remains in the ankle is scraped off and the two bones of the ankle (tibia and talus) are connected to each other with metal plates and/or screws. Although this has been the mainstay for treatment of end-stage ankle arthritis since the 1950s it is very limiting for two reasons. First, a fusion eliminates all ankle motion. Secondly, an ankle fusion puts a great deal of stress and strain on the other joints of the foot and then these become arthritic quicker and the pain simply shifts to different joints over time. If you are active and like to wear different types of shoes a fusion is likely not the best procedure for you. Many surgeons and doctors still believe that this is the only option for truly bad ankle arthritis, but technology has improved and surgical methods have become innovative and that is not, in fact, the only alternative available to you. A total ankle arthroplasty (replacement) is a great option in many cases.
You Want to Stay Active and Keep Your Ankle Motion
An ankle replacement surgery is similar in nature to a knee or hip replacement. Only the joint surfaces are replaced. Technology available today allows for customized instrumentation during surgery to ensure the fit and accuracy of the implant chosen for your ankle. This means the ankle replacement fits better and has a much better chance of lasting a very long time. The surgeon will essentially “resurface” your joint with smooth metal and plastic. This allows for you to maintain ankle motion for walking and such, while at the same time the pain from the arthritis is treated. Certain activities require a good deal of motion at the ankle and a fusion would not allow that. An ankle replacement can treat the arthritis but allow for more motion. Another benefit of a replacement over a fusion is that the remaining joints of the foot are protected from undue stress and strain with a replacement. This means the overall health of the foot is protected for longer if you have a total ankle replacement as opposed to a fusion.
If you have serious and painful ankle arthritis but are looking for an alternative to a fusion of the ankle, please call Warner Orthopedics and Wellness. Dr. Meredith Warner is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in complex foot and ankle surgery. She is one of the few surgeons in the State of Louisiana qualified, certified and permitted to perform total ankle arthroplasty surgery.