The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis where the joints suffer gradual wear and tear. With rheumatoid arthritis, the cartilage is eventually worn away, causing the bone underneath to become damaged.

Arthritis symptoms can include stiffness, swelling and pain in your joints. When conservative procedures are no longer working for you it’s time to discuss your situation with a consultant. You may be a candidate for ankle replacement.

What happens during ankle replacement?

Ankle replacement is usually performed under general anaesthetic. During your operation your surgeon will replace the worn out or damaged surfaces of your ankle joint with components made of metal, ceramic or plastic. These components have a coating that promotes bone growth meaning the prosthesis will naturally bond with the remaining bone in your joint. Once the components are in place your surgeon will close the surgical wound with stitches or staples.

After ankle replacement surgery

When your operation is over, you’ll be taken to the recovery room where you will wake from the anaesthetic. Your wound, blood pressure and pulse will be checked carefully. Your leg may be in a cast. Be sure and let our Healthcare Team know if you are in any pain.

You may have a small tube coming out of your wound, this is to drain away any excess fluid from the inside of the wound. You may also have a drip (infusion) going into your arm. This will keep you hydrated until you are able to drink, and it can also be used to give you pain relief.

When you are stable and comfortable, a nurse will take you back to your room.

Back in your room

You may spend two to five nights in hospital. Your leg may be elevated for most of your stay. Our physiotherapists will visit you to help you get mobile and teach you how to move around with a walker or crutches. You will not be able to bear weight on your foot for up to 12 weeks.

Going home after ankle replacement

You will not be allowed to drive until released by your surgeon. Please arrange for someone to drive you home from hospital and check in on your your first days home.

After 10 – 14 days you will need to come back to have your stitches or staples removed. Your cast will be removed and replaced by a lighter weight cast.

You will need to continue non weight bearing walking and standing for at least six weeks. Partial weight bearing may be encouraged after six weeks. You may work with a physiotherapist once weight bearing is allowed. Your range of motion and mobility will steadily increase but it may take several months to recover from ankle replacement.

Most patients make a good recovery from ankle replacement. Any surgical procedure can result in complications:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Blood clots (Deep Vein Thrombosis – DVT)
  • Nerve injury
  • Difficulty passing urine

Specific complications of ankle replacement:

  • Nerve damage
  • Damage to blood vessels
  • Slow healing of wound
  • Fracture
  • Failure of replacement
  • Continued discomfort