What To Expect From A Total Ankle Replacement

Your doctor recommended having a total ankle replacement to relieve the pain of the arthritis in that joint. The surgery is just the first step in the long process of getting you back up on your feet. Here is what you can expect from the surgery and the subsequent recovery at home.

Ankle Surgery and Its Impact on Recovery Time

The orthopedic surgeon will remove the end of the lower leg bone and insert a metal and plastic component into the bone. They will also remove a portion of the talus, a large bone in your ankle, and insert the other portion of the artificial ankle joint. These two components fit together to work like your natural ankle joint.

Elements of this procedure affect the length of your recovery:

  • The components are secured in the bone with a special cement. This cement holds the pieces in place until new bone grows around the components.
  • Any tendons and ligaments that are repositioned must heal. Tendons have less blood supply than muscles and ligaments have even less. These tissues take weeks to heal fully.

While the bone and soft tissues are healing, you'll need to be careful not to put too much stress on your new joint. Your doctor and physical therapist will help you set the limits that are healthy for your ankle.

Physical Therapy to Regain Range of Motion in Your Ankle

For a few days, you'll be able to put some weight on your ankle, but won't be able to move it much. This causes the muscles to contract and make your ankle feel stiff. When your doctor is satisfied with the progress of tissue and bone healing, they will start you on physical therapy to make your ankle limber again.

The therapist will begin by moving your ankle through its normal range of motion to slowly stretch out the muscles. As the muscles relax, your ankle will feel less stiff. These range of motion exercises must be done daily and may continue for several weeks until you ankle is limber again. If you try to rush this step, you'll end up with sore muscles and torn ligaments. Stick to the pace set by the doctor and therapist and don't put yourself at risk of a setback.

Strengthening the Ankle Muscles

Once you have full range of motion in the joint, you'll begin exercises to build up the strength of the muscles in your ankle. This is important to keep your ankle well supported so it doesn't buckle under you and cause a torn tendon or ligament.

The physical therapist will get you started, but you'll do much of the exercising on your own. Stay within the limits that your therapist assigns you so you don't stress the new ankle joint. This strengthening step will also take several weeks. If you're athletic and enjoy participating in sports, your doctor may have you continue the strengthening exercises to make sure your ankle can withstand the stress put on it from sports. For more information, talk to a professional like Omaha Orthopedic Clinic & Sports Medicine PC.