Arthritis of the ankle is common as we age due to the ankle’s role in supporting the bulk of our body weight as we walk. Two surgeries are most commonly used to treat advanced ankle arthritis including total ankle replacement and ankle fusion surgery. What is the difference and when should you choose one surgery over the other? Let’s find out!
- Total Ankle Replacement
Total ankle replacement, also known as ankle arthroplasty, is a procedure designed to relieve pain, increase mobility, and improve overall ankle function in those suffering from severe cases of arthritis. This procedure involves removing and replacing the damaged ankle joint with an artificial implant. During the recovery period, it is advised to stay off the recovering ankle for 4 weeks. Overall, it will take anywhere between 3-6 months to fully recover following total ankle replacement.
- Ankle Fusion
Ankle fusion or ankle arthrodesis is a procedure designed to treat severe cartilage damage in the ankle joint helping to relieve one’s pain. This procedure involves removing the damaged cartilage and fusing the bones of the ankle joint, eliminating motion in the joint. During recovery, it will take 10-12 weeks for the bones to properly fuse before you should put weight on the ankle joint. Overall, it will take 4-6 months for your ankle to fully recover following ankle fusion.
- Choosing the Right Surgery
There are several pros and cons to each procedure to consider when making your decision. Ankle fusion is typically a permanent solution for ankle arthritis with predictable outcomes and a lower risk of revision surgery. Ankle fusion completely eliminates movement in your ankle joint which can take some adjusting to and sometimes put stress on adjacent joints.You have limitations in the ability to move the ankle up and down, but are still able to move the ankle and foot side to side. Ankle fusion is typically used in younger patients who put more stress on the ankle. Ankle replacement is a newer surgical procedure that maintains ankle mobility and function. Because of this, ankle replacement surgery would be preferred for those who want to preserve ankle mobility or who are worried about their adjacent joints.
Choosing between ankle replacement surgery and ankle fusion can be intimidating, but you don’t have to decide alone. Dr. Daniel Dean is an expert orthopedic surgeon who can help with your decision while considering your needs and unique arthritic condition. Contact Dr. Dean today for specialized orthopedic care!
Dr. Daniel Dean is a board-certified and fellowship-trained foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon. He treats all musculoskeletal pathologies of the foot and ankle in adolescent and adult patients. He has specialized training in total ankle arthroplasty, sports injuries, flatfoot, complex fractures, and minimally invasive techniques in bunion correction.