Those who suffer from arthritis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis often live with severe ankle pain. All of these conditions can cause so much damage to the joints in the ankles that moving the ankles and walking can become nearly impossible. There are two procedures that are often used to treat long-term ankle pain. These are ankle fusion and total ankle replacement surgery, and here are some ways they differ.
Ankle fusion involves surgically placing screws and metal plates in the ankle so that it no longer moves. The screws and plates are placed in a specific area of the ankle to hold the ankle joint in place so that movement is no longer possible and therefore the pain is relieved. Unfortunately, this can also cause issues to develop in other areas of the feet and toes that may eventually be just as painful as the initial ankle pain.
In a total ankle replacement surgery, the ankle joint is replaced with a prosthetic made of metal and plastic. This procedure gives the patient long term relief from ankle pain while also allowing movement of the ankle to continue. Total ankle replacement often allows those who once led an active lifestyle that involved frequently walking or running to regain that ability to be active.
When deciding which procedure is best for a patient, there are things that must be considered. For instance, those who are otherwise healthy and who do not have a history of infections, diabetes, or being overweight may be the perfect candidates for total ankle replacement surgery. However, if the patient does have these health conditions, ankle fusion may be the only option to achieve relief from ankle pain.
Another way that these two procedures vary is what is involved in recovery and how much time it takes. Ankle fusion normally requires more recovery time. The patient may be in a cast for up to 12 weeks, and then physical therapy may be required to help the patient walk without a limp. Total ankle replacement surgery normally requires the patient to remain in a cast for up to 4 weeks, and there will be physical therapy treatments after the cast is removed. The length of time it takes for the patient to be able to walk without assistance after either procedure depends on each individual person's overall health.
It is best to speak to your orthopedic specialist before deciding which procedure to have done. A person's age, the amount of scar tissue in the ankle area, or if the ankle joint gets adequate blood supply can also determine which type of ankle surgery is the best option for the patient.
To learn more about ankle replacement procedures, contact a podiatrist.