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All you need to know about ankle surgery

What is ankle surgery?

The ankle is made up of:

The tibia, also known as the shin bone, forms the inside, front, and back of the ankle. It has a medial and posterior malleolus.

 

The fibula, which forms the outside of the malleolus.

The talus, which is a small bone sitting between the tibia, the fibula, and the heel bone

 

The ends of the tibia and fibula are called malleolus.

Ligaments protect the joint and hold the bones in place while preventing the ankle from rolling or twisting in a way that could result in injury.

Ankle fractures happen after an ankle-twisting, a fall, car accidents, or other injuries, causing displacement or non-displacement of the ankle bones describe above.

The common symptoms of an ankle fracture include:

  • Inflammation

  • Swelling

  • Bruising, redness, or discoloration of any part of the lower leg

  • Tender to touch, move, or bend

  • Severe pain that radiates to the tibia or below your foot

  • The primary goal of ankle surgery is to restore the ankle joint back in place, stabilize the bone, and reduce the risk of developing further conditions like arthritis.

Ankle injuries like sprains or a torn in one of the ligaments are typically treated with non-operative methods. However, they require surgery if the injury is severe.

An X-ray of your ankle is needed to determine if there is a fracture or if your bones are out of place and unable to heal with conservative treatments. If so, surgery is advised.

Which types of ankle surgery are available?

There are several types of ankle surgery.

Your orthopedic surgeon will determine which surgery is right for you depending on your age, the kind of fracture, and your level of activity.

Severely damaged ankle joints may need to have the bones fused together or even replaced with an artificial joint.

Ankle fusion

Ankle fusion is commonly successful at relieving pain from arthritis.

In this particular procedure, your surgeon roughens the ends of the damaged bones and then fastens them together with metal plates and screws.

The damaged bones fuse together into one combined bone and a decrease in the ankle’s motion is expected. This type of ankle surgery is advised to younger people, it's generally more durable, and it doesn’t require any long-term activity restrictions. 

Ankle replacement

This procedure is recommended for individuals over 60 who have a not so active lifestyle.

The surgery consists of removing the ends of the fractured bones and place a plastic or metal artificial replacement joint.

The new joint resembles a more natural movement, decreasing the risks of arthritis in the nearby joints.

Ankle replacement surgery is not intended for people who have weakened ankle ligaments, participate in high-impact sports, have nerve damage from diabetes, are overweight, or smoke.

Who is an ideal candidate for ankle surgery?

Your orthopedic surgeon may suggest an ankle surgery if you have a fracture in one or all of the ankle bones, and it depends on the severity of the pain, your particular needs, and your response to treatments.

The ideal candidate for ankle surgery is a healthy person.

 

Some medical problems such as diabetes, poor circulation, skin sores, or heart and lung disease may put you at a higher risk of infection, wound problem or other complications.

What are the benefits of ankle surgery?

The main advantages of foot and ankle surgery are relief from pain, a better quality of life and mobility of the ankle, and an improved appearance of your feet.

What are the risks of ankle surgery?

Like any major surgery, there are risks associated with ankle surgery.

  • Nerve damage

  • Numbness

  • Swelling

  • Stiffness

  • Blood clots

  • Infection

  • Wound bleeding

  • Failed fusion

If you’re generally healthy the risk of a serious complication from an operation is very small. Overall ankle replacement success rate is 89% at 5 years and 76% at 10 years.

What should you expect during ankle surgery recovery?

The goal of the recovery is to allow patients to restore ankle function while the bones and joints heal.

Following surgery, your ankle will be stabilized for a few weeks.

 

After your wounds heal, a fitted cast or boot is mandatory for ankle protection. A removable boot is way better as it allows you to wash, ice, and check the wound.

Your orthopedic surgery will tell you when to put weight on the ankle.

 

Patients return to their normal activities once the bones are fully healed, which takes about six weeks.

When can I see results of ankle surgery?

It can take up to six weeks for the bones in the ankle to heal after surgery but can take several months to a year of healing to regain full motion and ankle strength.

 

Before surgery, the doctor and surgeon will help you develop a plan for recovery.

 

Make sure you talk to your doctor about when you can expect your ankle to be recovered.

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