How to Prepare for Total Ankle Replacement Surgery

Are there things that I can do before my total ankle replacement surgery to help my recovery process?

Have you recently been advised by your orthopedic specialist that total ankle replacement surgery is recommended? This was not something you wanted to hear. It’s also likely that it wasn’t a surprise either, because this only happens when the condition of your ankle joint has reached the point where the only other options would be ankle fusion or a life of extremely limited mobility. 

We depend on our ankles for a lot. Like the hip and knee joints, our ankle joints are called into action any time we want to get from point A to point B, whether that involves running down the street, climbing a flight of stairs, or simply getting out of bed in the morning. The ankle is one of the larger joints and is comprised of three bones; the tibia and fibula in the lower leg and the talus, which joins them to the foot. When everything is healthy and working properly, the joint that these three bones form facilitates the wide range of motion that we associate with the ankle. 

The ankle joint not only bears the weight of our body, plus the additional force created by movements such and running and jumping, it gives us the ability to bend our feet forward and back and perform twisting motions. The flip side of this, however, is that this level of complexity makes it very vulnerable to injury. Trauma to the ankle joint, although it may appear to have completely healed, can lead to arthritis, specifically post-traumatic arthritis, at some point in the future. Even without injury or trauma, the normal aging process will take its toll on the ankle joint just like it does in the knees and hips. This form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. 

Once arthritis has set up in the joint, the process of degeneration will continue to get worse, leading to increased pain, swelling, and loss of function. Conservative methods will typically be suggested in the beginning. These include some combination of activity reduction, physical therapy, braces, inserts and footwear modifications, as well as medications and injections for reducing pain and inflammation. If these initial treatment methods are not sufficient and you are deemed to be a good candidate, total ankle replacement may be your best option for regaining your mobility and quality of life. 

Preparing for Total Ankle Replacement Surgery

One of the things that your surgeon will discuss with you prior to surgery will be things that you should do to get ready. Some of the most common of these suggestions will be:

  • Report any signs or symptoms of illness during the week prior to surgery
  • Discuss all medications you are taking that might cause issues with bleeding
  • Stop smoking, which puts a strain on the heart and can lengthen recovery time
  • Prepare your home:
    • Have everything you need on the ground floor, including where you will sleep
    • Remove small rugs and other tripping hazards
    • Acquire a tub or shower chair
    • Arrange for someone to stay with you for several days following your surgery

After ankle replacement surgery, you will not be able to put any weight on your ankle for several weeks. It will be in a splint and you will need crutches to move around. The good news is the pain that you experienced prior to your surgery should be gone immediately. 

If you have questions about ankle replacement surgery or about any other foot or ankle concerns, Dr. Christopher Hubbard is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon with Ortho-Care Wayne in Passaic County New Jersey and is the former Chief of the Foot and Ankle Service at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in NYC.

 To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.