Should more conservative treatments fail to address ankle problems, surgery may be an option. Oftentimes, those who suffer from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis that developed due to a previous injury become ankle surgery candidates as nonsurgical treatments fail to properly address their issues. Nonsurgical treatments may include things like:
- Physical therapy
- Conditioning exercises
- Prescription medication
- Ankle boot
- Ankle splint or brace
Surgery may be necessary to give the patient relief from persistent ankle pain and swelling, along with other often debilitating symptoms. When determining what type of surgery would be best for you, your doctor will consider things such as the severity of your ankle problem, your age, and your level of activity. Some of the most common ankle surgery procedures include:
- Arthroscopic ankle surgery: One of the major benefits of arthroscopic surgery is that it is minimally invasive. Microscopic surgical instruments are inserted into tiny incisions made around the ankle. Arthroscopic surgery is not only used to diagnose a variety of orthopedic ankle conditions, but is also used to repair different problems that occur in the ankle. For instance, arthroscopic surgery may be used in lateral ankle ligament reconstruction. It is sometimes available as an outpatient procedure and can help stabilize the ankle through stitching together ligaments. In some cases, ligaments can be replaced with woven tendons from around the ankle bones. Arthroscopic surgery can also be used to repair ankle cartilage. In this procedure, damaged cartilage is removed. In some instances, broken bone pieces that have come loose can also be removed and relieve the pain they may have caused in the ankle joint.
- Ankle fusion: Another common ankle surgical procedure is an ankle fusion. With an ankle fusion, the surgeon will fasten together the roughened ends of damaged bones through the use of metal plates and screws. While healing, the bones that have been damaged actually end up fusing together to form one combined bone. Ankle fusion is commonly used in providing relief from arthritis pain and is generally very successful. The downside of an ankle fusion is that there is a reduction in the motion of the ankle as well as an increased risk of arthritis developing in nearby joints as they will be moving more to make up for the ankle’s reduced range of motion. It is, however, the ankle surgery preferred over ankle replacement for younger, more active people as it is more durable and there are less activity restrictions during the recover process.
- Ankle replacement: Generally recommended for those older than 50 who are not overly active, ankle replacement involves the surgical removal of damaged bone ends. After the removal, there is a replacement joint made of plastic and metal fitted onto the bones. One of the benefits of the artificial joint is that it allows the ankle to maintain a more natural level of movement. This, in turn, reduces the risk of arthritis developing in nearby joints that can be much higher after an ankle fusion. Unfortunately, however, the components of the artificial joint may come loose. This risk is increased during high-impact activities which is why the ankle replacement procedure is generally recommended for less active, older individuals.
Ankle procedures can provide life-changing relief to those experiencing chronic pain that has not been relieved by nonsurgical methods. Consult with an experienced ankle surgeon to discuss your options.