Ankle joint replacement, also known as total ankle arthroplasty (TAA), is a specialised surgical procedure used to treat osteoarthritis. Arthritis leads to cartilage loss, which can eventually cause chronic pain and/or deformity. The operation replaces worn cartilage and joints with synthetic or man-made components, and it is carried out by an orthopaedic surgeon.
The content has been reviewed for quality and accuracy to the best of our knowledge by Qunomedical and its Medical Board of Experts.
Ankle joint replacement is a specialised surgical procedure for the treatment of arthritis. Arthritis of the ankle joint is normally the result of ageing, the cartilage that covers your bones wears down and gradually becomes thinner and rougher. This causes the bone underneath the cartilage to thicken and it can also happen following sports injuries or also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Over time, wear to the cartilage and bone ends causes pain and swelling which is sometimes accompanied by decreased joint mobility or deformity. In ankle joint replacement surgery, the worn down ends of the tibia and talus bones are removed and replaced with man-made components made of metal or plastic.
If you are considering ankle replacement surgery, it's likely that you have experienced chronic pain and reduced mobility due to arthritis. The procedure replaces the joint and the rough, worn bone ends with a polyethylene joint and smooth metal plates that move easily and without friction. Pain is massively reduced and, unlike other ankle procedures, there is no loss of mobility.
During your initial consultation, your orthopaedic surgeon will discuss the ankle joint replacement procedure with you and tell you about any alternative treatments. He or she will explain what will happen on the day of the operation and tell you what you should expect afterwards. You will undergo a short examination, and the doctor will go over your medical history. An x-ray of your ankle will be taken, and your blood pressure will be checked. Your doctor will ask you about any current medications, including herbal remedies and vitamin supplements. You should inform your surgeon if have any underlying medical conditions or allergies. You should avoid smoking and alcohol in the weeks leading up to your operation. The surgeon will also answer any questions you may have about the procedure or preparation and aftercare.
Ankle joint replacement surgery can be performed under a general anaesthetic or a nerve block. At your initial consultation, the orthopaedic surgeon will help you to decide which is the best option based on your general health and your medical history.
Ankle joint replacement is mainly performed using a technique called keyhole surgery. Your surgeon will follow these steps:
Although there is only one type of ankle joint replacement procedure, a similar alternative treatment is available:
Ankle joint replacement is a major medical procedure, and you should follow the orthopaedic surgeon's advice step-by-step. You should expect to feel some pain in your ankle immediately after the operation. There will be some swelling, and you will have to keep your foot raised for a couple of days. You will be unable to put any weight on your foot for several weeks. During this time, a cast or special cast boot is worn to protect the foot and ensure that the ankle joint replacement components heal in place. Although you will be immobilised for six weeks, once you begin to walk again, your ankle will be flexible and movement will be pain-free.