What are the common symptoms of ankle arthritis?
Ankle arthritis has a number of different symptoms, including tenderness to the touch or pain within the joint itself, particularly early in the morning or late at night. Warmth emanating from the joint, stiffness or swelling are all also common.
People with ankle arthritis often experience a reduced range of motion, due to the deterioration of cartilage within the joint, which may also cause pain. You may experience difficulty placing weight on the affected joint, or find that you have trouble walking as easily as you used to. This can also cause a tightening of the Achilles tendon, as it’s not experiencing its normal range of motion.
However, it’s important to note that all of these symptoms are quite broad, and can be indicative of a number of other injuries or conditions. Accordingly, diagnosis is often made via x-ray in order to confirm that arthritis is the underlying culprit.
How does total ankle arthroplasty work?
Ankle replacement surgery is less common than knee or hip replacement due to the complexity of the surrounding bone and muscular system. Typically, it’s reserved for those who have been non-responsive to other forms of ankle arthritis treatments such as analgesic medications, corticosteroids and physical therapy.
However, medical technology has improved significantly, and it’s becoming more commonplace. The surgeon will enter via the front of the ankle, remove bone spurs as necessary and remove the damaged ends of the tibia and talus bones. The implant is then attached to the healthy bone.
As the Achilles tendon may be tight due to the long-term effects of ankle arthritis, the surgeon may also make a second incision to release it and help restore overall mobility and function.
What is the recovery like for total ankle arthroplasty?
At present, the recovery time for ankle replacement surgery is quite lengthy. This is due to the delicate nature of the ankle joint and to ensure that the surrounding bones are not damaged by placing weight on the healing tissue too soon after surgery.
Patients stay in the hospital for 1-2 days following surgery, and then are placed in a non-weight bearing cast for two weeks. After this, they transition to a boot for 6 weeks, with full weight-bearing generally allowed around the 4-week mark. After the boot is removed, it is usually another two weeks before the patient can wear enclosed shoes again. Regular physical therapy is required for several months afterwards in order to ensure that as much mobility as possible is regained.