Total Ankle Arthroplasty

Your ankle, like other major joints, can get arthritis. Three main types of arthritis can affect the ankle:

  • Osteoarthritis (OSS-tee-oh-arth-RYE-tis) develops when cartilage in the joints breaks down. Cartilage is the protective covering that allows joints to move smoothly.
  • Rheumatoid (ROOM-uh-toyd) arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system makes a chemical that destroys the protective cartilage.
  • Trauma-related arthritis results from injury of a joint. Joints can be injured from fracture, dislocation, or damage to joint ligaments.

Ankle surgery

Surgery to reshape or replace a joint is called arthroplasty (ARE-throw-plass-tee). Two types of arthroplasty can help arthritis of the ankle:

  • Ankle fusion (FEW-zhun) unites the bones of the joint to make one solid bone. Fusion results in an ankle that does not bend or move.
  • Total ankle replacement leads to a more normal walking pattern. Both sides of the ankle joint are removed. An artificial joint of metal and plastic is inserted. The artificial joint is called a prosthesis (pross-THEE-sis).

Before surgery, your primary care doctor will do a medical exam, EKG, chest x-ray, and lab tests. You also will receive antibiotics before surgery to prevent infection.

After your surgery

  • To prevent infection, you will receive antibiotics.
  • Your doctor will prescribe pain medicine.
  • A cast or splint will keep your foot and lower leg from moving.
  • To reduce swelling, it is important to keep your affected leg raised above your heart.
  • Do not place any weight on your affected leg until your doctor says you may. Usually you must not bear any weight on the affected leg for 6 weeks. Use a walker or crutches as your doctor or physical therapist tell you to.
  • Your doctor will tell you when to begin doing exercises for your ankle. A physical therapist will teach you special exercises.
  • Normally after 6 weeks you may bear weight as tolerated on your affected leg using a walker or crutches. A physical therapist will teach you how to use your walker or crutches.
  • Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you when you may use a cane. You must be able to bear weight without pain and have good strength and balance in the affected leg before you use a cane.

After you leave the hospital

  • When resting, keep your ankle raised above your heart level.
  • Do the exercises your doctor prescribes the way your physical therapist teaches you.
  • Use your walker or crutches as your physical therapist tells you.
  • Change the dressing as your doctor tells you.
  • Keep your splint on at all times, except when doing your exercises.

When to call the doctor

If you have any of the following, call your doctor:

  • Chills, sore throat, or fever of 101 F (38.3 C) or above
  • Increase in redness, swelling, or drainage from your incision
  • Discoloration, numbness, tingling, or feeling of coolness to the touch in the toes or foot of the affected leg
  • Redness, swelling, or warmth in the calf of your affected leg
  • Increase in pain that is not relieved by your pain medicine

Other instructions

Always tell your dentist or doctor if you have an artificial joint. Antibiotics can then be ordered for you before any procedure.

If you have questions

If you have any questions or concerns, contact:


Phone number:


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