When Is a Total Ankle Replacement Necessary?

Jan 06, 2023
When Is a Total Ankle Replacement Necessary?
Of the major joints in the lower body, the ankle most often avoids the kind of deterioration requiring joint replacement as often as the hips and knees. When it’s required, total ankle replacement relieves pain and restores mobility.

While osteoarthritis affects a wide swath of the American population, almost 25% according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 1% of all adults suffer from osteoarthritis of the ankle. Though ankle arthritis is rare, it can be very painful when it reaches advanced stages. 

When conservative treatment options no longer control the pain and mobility problems for an arthritic ankle, or when damage to the joint reaches an advanced stage, it may be time for a total ankle replacement. Not all podiatrists specialize in this procedure. In Valencia and Northridge, California, you can count on Babak Kosari, DPM, FACFAS, a specialist who’s board-certified by the American Board of Foot & Ankle Surgery

When is a total ankle replacement necessary?

Though the ankle isn’t often affected by arthritis, when joint deterioration occurs, it’s usually due to some form of this joint condition. Osteoarthritis is the most common form, resulting from the accumulated wear-and-tear over decades. This form of the disease can be hastened by an injury that accelerates its characteristic cartilage deterioration.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the second-most common form of arthritis, and it’s a body-wide autoimmune disorder that attacks the components of your joints. It tends to come on more suddenly and aggressively than osteoarthritis, though it can often be managed with medical treatment. In either case, the severity of joint damage is the guiding factor for joint replacement surgery, not the form of arthritis or injury that caused it.

For mild and moderate levels of joint deterioration in an ankle, there may be treatments that control your pain and limit the impact of arthritis. Dr. Kosari only recommends total ankle replacement when conventional pain management efforts fail, or when instability of the ankle joint interferes with daily activities. 

What to expect from total ankle replacement

You’ll have your ankle replacement surgery in a hospital, but you’ll remain there perhaps only for a night or two. In rare cases, it’s possible to have a procedure on an outpatient basis. You will, however, spend time with your foot immobilized. You’ll likely wear a splint and use crutches for several weeks as healing progresses. Your new ankle won’t bear full weight for several months. 

The splint gives way to a boot or cast after a couple of weeks. Physical therapy likely starts before your foot is free, continuing afterward to build strength in muscles and other tissues that support the ankle. Recovery takes time, though the results are worth it. Total ankle replacement has a high success rate and you can look forward to 10 years or more of trouble-free ankle function.  

Schedule a consultation with Dr. Kosari by calling 818-696-5859 or by clicking the appointment request link on this page. You can request an appointment at the most convenient office at that time. Take the first step toward a pain-free ankle and book your visit today.