Total Ankle Replacement

Total ankle replacement (arthroplasty) involves replacing an arthritic ankle joint with a prosthesis made up of metal and plastic. The benefits of an ankle replacement include excellent pain relief while retaining motion in the ankle joint. The University of Michigan Health System is one of the few health care providers in the area that offer total ankle replacement, and we are highly experienced with this procedure. We see many patients with complicated cases, and our surgeons are involved in a variety of related research studies.

Is Ankle Replacement a Good Option for You?

The best way to determine whether total ankle replacement is a good option for you is to see one of our skilled and knowledgeable surgeons in the U-M Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. 

In evaluating you, we will consider: 

  • Your age
  • Your physical characteristics 
  • The severity of your ankle deformity
  • Additional medical conditions you may have
  • The presence of arthritis in the nearby joints of your foot
  • The demands on your normal activity

General Information About Ankle Replacement Surgery and Recovery

Typically, ankle replacement surgery requires general anesthesia with a regional nerve block and 1-2 days in the hospital. We will remove your stitches about 2 weeks after surgery. For about 4-6 weeks from the date of surgery you should not bear weight on your ankle. After that, we transition you into a pneumatic boot (it looks like a ski boot with an inflatable liner for additional compression), and encourage you to work on range of motion with the ankle. Around 3 months after your surgery, you will transition into a shoe with an ankle brace and you may start non-impact activities.

After a year, most patients can return to low-demand activities such as walking, biking, hiking, swimming and using an elliptical trainer. Engaging in high-impact activities, such as running or other sports that have a lot of impact on the ankle, may decrease the life expectancy of the prosthesis in the ankle. 

Risks and Benefits of Ankle Replacement

There are many benefits of ankle replacement, but there are also risks. 

Benefits include:

  • Excellent pain relief
  • Correction of ankle deformity
  • Preserves some motion in the ankle that feels more “normal”

Risks include:

  • The need for revision surgery (surgery to replace a failed implant) at some point in the future. Early failure can happen within 2-3 years of surgery, and late revision may be required 8-15 years after the original surgery.
  • Wound healing complications

Long-Term Expectations for Total Ankle Replacement

It may take a full year for your swelling to go down and you experience a full return to recreational activities. After a year, patients may experience the following:

  • A more normal manner of walking.
  • A return to low-demand activities, such as walking, biking, hiking, swimming, and using an elliptical trainer. (Engaging in high-impact activities, such as running or other sport activities may decrease the life expectancy of the prosthesis in the ankle.)
  • Revision surgery which may be needed depending on many factors, including cleaning up the surrounding bone if it is causing pain, replacing parts of the prosthesis, or removing the prosthesis altogether and fusing the ankle joint instead.

Contact Us / Make an Appointment 

Selecting a health care provider is a very important decision. Because we are highly experienced in total ankle replacement, we would like to help you explore your options. Visit our Contact Us page to see a list of clinics and their contact information. Our staff will be glad to talk with you about how we can help.