Procedure, Risks, Complications & Recovery After Ankle Arthroplasty

Submitted by Nic on December 6, 2013

If you suffer from chronic arthritis of the ankle or have damaged the ankle joint through injury or long-term wear and tear, your doctor may recommend ankle arthroplasty or ankle replacement surgery. Needless to say, ankle arthroplasty is often the last option after other treatment options have been exhausted such as restricted ankle movements (by wearing special footwear), ankle arthrodesis or ankle fusion that may help relieve pain but reduces movement of the joint or ankle foot orthosis (which involves the use of an ankle brace).

If any or all of the above kinds of treatments have been unsuccessful or the pain has not reduced, ankle arthroplasty may be your only option.

Ankle arthroplasty or total ankle replacement surgery has been around for almost 25 years. With recent developments in science and surgical techniques, the results of this type of surgery have been very encouraging. Studies show that nearly 90 percent of all patients who have undergone this type of surgery have been satisfied with the results.


The surgery is performed under general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia. The procedure involves cutting the front of the ankle to allow access to the ankle joint. If the joint has been damaged, the surgeon will remove the damaged part (either the tibia or the talus) and insert a new artificial joint. Once the new joint has been put in place, the nerves and tendons are replaced to their original positions and the site of incision is sutured. After the surgery, a cast or brace will have to be worn to prevent excessive movement and encourage a speedy recovery.

Recovery after the surgery may take time. Immediately after the procedure you may have to stay in hospital for a day or two. Painkillers will help deal with the pain and a cast or splint will restrict unnecessary movement of the joint. As the ankle heals, physical therapy will help restore natural movement and reduce stiffness.

Risks and Complications

If you have suffered from any type of infection of the ankle joint in the past, such a type of surgery is not recommended. The risks associated with ankle arthroplasty include:

  • Breathing difficulties as a reaction to general anesthesia
  • Adverse reaction to the medications used during the surgery
  • Excessive bleeding or blood clots
  • Infection of the joint
  • Stiffness or immobility of the ankle joint
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage
  • Allergic reaction to the artificial joint
  • Dislocation or damage to the bone


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