If you have chronic arthritis or ankle damage from an old injury, constantly feeling your ankle joint rub together when you walk can be incredibly painful. There are two solutions doctors typically recommend in this situation: ankle fusion and ankle replacement surgery. Fusion surgery is less invasive, as the two bones of your ankle are simply fused together. Ankle replacement is more invasive and has a longer recovery time, but actually, it tends to be the better option for many patients. Here's why.
Ankle replacement restores your mobility.
If you were to have your ankle fused, you would no longer suffer intense pain with every step. However, your gait would obviously be altered since you would not be able to bend your ankle as usual. You'll have far less pain than you do now, but your gait may actually be worse. With an ankle replacement, on the other hand, your mobility will be restored. You will be able to bend your new ankle just like you used to bend your original ankle prior to your arthritis or injury. People who have ankle replacements are better able to climb stairs, jump, and even run to a certain extent.
Ankle replacement helps protect your other joints.
Because ankle fusion alters your gait, it can lead to damage to your other joints. For example, you will use your knee differently to compromise for the way you walk on your ankle, so you may end up with knee arthritis a few years down the road. Having an ankle replacement restores natural mobility, which helps protect your other joints. It is a bigger surgery to have right now, but it will help prevent the need for additional surgeries and orthopedic procedures down the road.
Ankle replacement is less likely to need surgical readjustment.
Many people who have ankle fusion surgery end up needing to have a surgical readjustment years down the road. Too much bone tissue may calcify around one of the screws used to secure the joint, or one of the screws might come loose. There's a chance an ankle replacement may need an adjustment too, but this is less common, especially today when joint replacement materials are made to last a lifetime.
Ankle fusion surgery was once the preferred method of dealing with chronic ankle arthritis, but ankle replacement is becoming more common as patients and doctors realize the benefits. Talk to your surgeon if you're still unsure which approach is best for you.