Patient Education: Ankle Replacement

Ankle replacement

A typical ankle replacement procedure starts with an incision through the skin on the front of the ankle. The nerves, tendons and blood vessels are moved to the side. An incision is then made into the protective tissue around the joint. Once that is out of the way the bones of the ankle are reshaped in preparation of attaching the artificial joint pieces. The artificial joint consists of 3 pieces. Metal caps are attached to the Tibia and Talus. A high-grade plastic spacer is placed between the metal caps to allow for smooth movement.

Preparing for Surgery

Patients, in accordance with the recommendations of their doctor or physical therapist, begin preoperative strengthening exercises to help them prepare for surgery and determine existing strength, flexibility, and pain levels. Patients may be given a comprehensive nutrition plan to help ensure optimum health before surgery.

There are many things that your surgeon may do to minimize the potential for complications. If needed, your surgeon may have you see a medical physician before surgery to obtain tests.

After Surgery

On a case-by-case basis your surgeon may implement a unique pain management program. This is designed to dramatically reduce your postoperative pain. Reducing postoperative pain is critical to helping begin the postoperative rehabilitation and to help make a rapid recovery.

Usually, the ankle is placed into a splint or cast. It should be kept elevated whenever sitting or sleeping to minimize swelling and help reduce pain. Your ankle will probably be placed in a cast or splint. Stitches are normally removed after 10 to 14 days, although most of them will have been absorbed.

Before you leave the hospital, your physical therapist will show you a variety of exercises designed to help you regain mobility and strength. You should be able to perform these exercises on your own at home.

When at home, it is important to continue with your exercises as your physician has instructed. It is a good idea to enlist the help of friends or family.


Avoiding direct pressure on the joint is recommended for at least 10-12 weeks. During that time crutches or a walker may be used. A physical therapist may be responsible for directing your rehabilitation. They will help to make sure your recovery proceeds at a safe pace.

Don’t be surprised if your doctor takes x-rays on each checkup to ensure that the bones are bonding with the implants. The long term prognosis, in some ways, depends on how well your body bonds with the artificial joint.

Recovery times will vary from patient to patient. Expect about 3 months before regular activity may be resumed.


While uncommon, complications can occur during and after surgery. Some complications include infection, blood clots, implant breakage, misalignment, and premature wear. Although implant surgery is extremely successful in most cases, some patients still experience stiffness and pain. No implant will last forever and factors such as the patient’s post-surgical activities and weight can affect longevity. Be sure to discuss these and other risks with your surgeon.

All patient education materials are provided by and have been reviewed by our Advisory Board of leading Orthopedic Surgeons to ensure accuracy. All materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from your orthopedic surgeon. Any medical decisions should be made after consulting a qualified physician.
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