It is not unusual for people to be less familiar with total ankle arthroplasty versus hip and knee arthroplasty even though the procedure has been available for more than 20 years. Total Ankle Arthroplasty (TAA), also known as Total Ankle Replacement, is the surgical removal of portions of the bones and cartilage that comprise the ankle joint. As with other replacement surgeries, metal pieces are inserted into bones. In a TAA procedure, a surgeon places a metal piece in the tibia and talus and attaches a plastic medical device on the tibia to preserve motion in the joint and remove pain.
Of course, the road to a TAA is not short for most patients. To be a candidate for TAA conservative treatment with no improvement must be exhausted. Most TAA patients fall into multiple categories. Many suffer from advanced arthritis, chronic ankle pain, ankle instability and/or severe fractures. Severe osteoarthritis is the most common reason patients pursue information regarding ankle replacement. Over time, swelling and inflammation becomes so severe, cartilage is destroyed and the ankle becomes immobilized. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) plays a key role as well. RA erodes bone in the ankle joint and causes malformation and disability.
It is not uncommon to see patients who have a history of ankle sprains through participation in sports or other activities, too. When an ankle encounters repetitive problems, it becomes less stable and instability produces additional opportunity for damage to occur. As viability and strength of ligaments deteriorate, the ankle becomes weak and mobility and function in the leg and ankle are compromised.
Surgery and recovery from a TAA is similar to other replacement procedures. However, the main difference is weight-bearing. Unlike hips and knees, immediately after surgery, the ankle is placed in a cast and elevation of the surgically-repaired ankle is required. In beginning phases of recovery, the ankle must be elevated above the heart to minimize swelling and allow time for the incision to heal. After a short period, sutures from the incision will be removed and the ankle is placed in a removable boot w/weight-bearing restriction and physical therapy is introduced to launch the next phase of recovery.
Benchmarks in progress vary based on individual patients, but timeline for recovery is usually longer for TAA patients than those who undergo hip and knee replacement surgery. This is typical because of the location and nature of the surgery. Remember, to have a successful hip or knee surgery, you must be able to walk. If you are a patient suffering from chronic ankle issues, you are more than aware how important ankle anatomy is in relation to the human body and what an important role it plays in musculoskeletal system.
The old saying, “put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor” takes on a whole new meaning for those who endure relentless pain and discomfort due to chronic ankle issues. An ankle replacement unlocks the ability to perform basic activities most take for granted as well as re-opens a window of opportunity deemed closed due to lack of mobility or an inability to enjoy normal function.
Of course, not all patients are good candidates for TAA. At McBride, each patient is evaluated on an individual basis and presented with a variety of options to ensure the most effective course of treatment. In many cases, Ankle Fusion is another tool in the toolbox. Both procedures provide the same degree of pain relief – which direction an orthopedic specialist recommends to go is not an automatic answer – it is always based on the patient, diagnostics and in-depth discussion.
If you suffer from chronic ankle issues and wish to explore options to reduce pain and increase mobility, please contact McBride at 405.230.9270 to schedule an appointment. McBride specialists welcome the opportunity to work with you and discuss your healthcare needs.