How it works
To perform ankle replacement surgery (also known as an ankle arthroplasty), surgeons make an incision in the front of the ankle. Sometimes, a second incision in the calf is made to release the Achilles tendon, which often becomes tight in patients with ankle arthritis. From here, the layers of muscles and tissue are carefully dissected, so that the surgeon can gain access to the ankle, where they will clear out any bone spurs and remove the ends of the tibia and talus bones. Then the surgeon will attach the implant to the remaining healthy bone. After the implant has been properly adjusted and fitted to the bone, the surgeon will carefully close the incision site.
Several different implant devices are available for a full ankle arthroplasty. Dr. Heier, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff, has taught orthopedic surgeons how to perform surgery with the STAR Ankle; consulted with developers of the Agility ankle, the first commonly used prosthesis; and has extensive experience with the Salto Ankle and the Wright Medical Infinity Prophecy ankle.
“I am presently doing the Infinity Prophecy ankle most commonly due to the success of the CT-designed cutting blocks, which are specifically made to fit each patient's ankle joint,” Dr. Heier said. “Having experience with all these devices, I can recommend the best option for each patient’s particular condition.”
Compared to previous implants, the newer and more advanced prosthetics require surgeons to remove less bone, so that less injury is sustained during surgery, and the bone to which the device is affixed is stronger. Also, instruments that help surgeons align the artificial joint have also improved to reduce surgical trauma.
Most patients will spend one or two days in the hospital after this surgery. They will be in a supportive air cast for two weeks and then a boot for six weeks. Full weight-bearing starts at four weeks in the boot, and most patients are wearing shoes by eight weeks. Intensive physical therapy follows.
Once healed, ankle-stressing activities like basketball or distance running aren’t recommended, but patients can enjoy walking, golfing and other daily activities without pain. You can explore a range of testimonials from patients who’ve undergone joint replacement surgery right here on our website.
“For my patients who’ve struggled with severe ankle pain for years, they tell me this surgery has changed their lives,” said Dr. Heier.