Ankle Replacement Surgery

Advanced Surgical Treatment for Severe Ankle Pain or Injuries

Loyola Medicine’s fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeons are experienced in all types of ankle replacement surgeries. Our orthopaedic surgeons and podiatrists work together to find the best treatment for each patient.

Loyola’s board-certified surgeons are highly experienced in performing ankle replacement surgery, which is less commonly performed than other joint replacements. Your Loyola doctor may recommend this surgery when more conservative treatments do not succeed in controlling arthritis, giving long-term pain relief or helping restore movement. 

Ankle replacement surgery is one treatment option for a patient with serious ankle problems or pain, which may be caused by:

  • Arthritis from a previous ankle surgery
  • Fractures of bones around the ankle
  • Infection
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Tripping and falling injuries

Loyola’s orthopaedic surgeons also perform revision ankle replacement surgery, in which an older implanted joint is removed and replaced with new components. This procedure is recommended if the implants from a previous surgery fail (due to loosening, infection, dislocation or regular wear) and a patient continues to have pain and loss of function. 

For patients with severe arthritis, your Loyola surgeon may recommend joint fusion surgery (arthrodesis). Arthrodesis uses bone or metal to fuse adjacent bones together, preventing movement and reducing pain in the arthritic joint. This approach is used only in patients who experience severe arthritis pain that can’t be helped by ankle replacement surgery.

Why Choose Loyola for Ankle Replacement Surgery?

At Loyola, you’ll benefit from the expertise of fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeons who have additional training in joint replacement. Our surgeons partner with other Loyola medical specialists, sports medicine doctors, physical and occupational therapists, rehabilitation specialists and pain management experts in order to provide a multidisciplinary perspective to your condition and treatment. 

What to Expect with Ankle Replacement Surgery

In an ankle replacement surgery, also called a total ankle arthroplasty, the damaged bone and cartilage of your ankle is removed and replaced with artificial parts made of metal and plastic. Your Loyola surgeon might recommend replacing the lower end of your shin bone, the top of your foot bone (talus), or both. 

The surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia; sometimes a spinal anesthesia is used, numbing everything below your waist. The procedure usually takes two or three hours.

Your surgeon will cut the skin on the front of your ankle and push aside the nerves, muscle, tendons and blood vessels to expose the ankle joint. After the damaged bones are removed and replaced with artificial components, a bone cement is used to connect the new parts to your bones, and plastic is inserted between the metal parts. Your surgeon will put the tendons back in place and close the cut with stitches.

After the procedure, most patients need to stay overnight in the hospital. Your ankle will be in a cast or splint and your leg will be numb for several hours. A small tube to help drain blood from your ankle joint may remain in your ankle for a day or two. To keep swelling down, keep your foot elevated while you are sleeping or resting. 

For the next four to six weeks, you will need to keep weight off your ankle and use crutches or a walker to get around. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you get back to your regular activities; learn more about orthopaedic rehabilitation. You won’t be able to drive until you can press down on the pedals without pain. It may take a year for you to walk the way you used to and return to your usual activities.

What are the Risks of Ankle Replacement Surgery?

One of the possible risks of ankle replacement surgery is dislocation of the artificial ankle. Some patients experience ankle weakness, stiffness or instability after the procedure. Other complications include fractures, osteolysis (loss of bone), metal sensitivity or metal toxicity. 

Your Loyola healthcare team will discuss the risks and benefits of any surgical procedure with you prior to your surgery. Loyola’s surgeons are experts in their field and do everything possible to limit complications from surgery.