Need Ankle Surgery? Here is How it Works

The ankle is a complicated joint and things often go wrong with both the ankle and the foot it supports. While most ankle problems do not need surgery, some do.

What Are the Most Common Forms of Ankle Surgery?

Surgery is most often needed for the following conditions:

Ankle Arthritis

Severe arthritis in the ankle may eventually need surgery, whether it is caused by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or a previous injury.

There are three options: Ankle fusion removes the damaged ankle joint and fuses the talus bone to the Talia, leaving you pain free but with very limited ankle motion. Triple fusion is fusing three small joints in the ankle to correct certain foot deformities.

Finally, ankle replacement removes the ends of the tibia and talus bones and replaces them.

Achilles Tendon Problems

In rare cases, surgery may be needed to correct swelling in the Achilles tendon or where it attaches to your heel.

What is the Process?

If your doctor determines you need ankle surgery, then you will go through the following process:

  1. Preparation for surgery. You may have to fast for a few hours before your operation, which can include not drinking water. You will need to sign a consent form, and should ask any questions you have, including checking whether you should stop or adjust any medications you are on. It’s always a good idea to have a dental check-up well before routine surgery. Make sure that you have clothes that are easy to put on and off.
  2. The surgery itself. Depending on your problem, the actual surgery will take one to two hours. If you have an ankle replacement, you may need to stay in the hospital for a couple of days.
  3. Recovery. Recovery varies. For most ankle surgery you will be in a cast for anything up to 14 weeks. You will probably have a series of follow up appointments. You should talk to your rheumatologist or doctor about resuming any medication. Because you will likely not be able to drive while you are in the cast, you should plan for transportation.

Most ankle surgery is routine, but there may be a lengthy period of recovery. You should make sure you and your family are ready to deal with you being “out of action” for a while.