Arthritis affects millions of Americans, and when it develops in your ankle joint, it’s in your best interest to visit an ankle and foot specialist to see how to best care for the condition. Arthritis does tend to respond well to conservative care treatments, but activities like exercise and physical therapy can’t undo the damage that has been done. If arthritic degeneration is severe, a more hands-on approach like surgery may be necessary. We take a closer look at three procedures to help treat ankle arthritis in today’s blog.
Here’s a look at three surgical procedures your ankle surgeon may recommend depending on your level of arthritic degeneration.
Surgical Debridement – A debridement procedure is considered for someone with mild to moderation arthritic damage. An x-ray can help determine how much degeneration has taken place and if bone spurs are in need of removal. The procedure involves cleaning out loose cartilage or bone fragments that can cause joint irritation and damage. A minimally invasive debridement procedure involves making a small incision in the ankle to access the joint and remove any offending pieces or fragments. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and many patients can return home the same day as surgery with a walking aid like crutches.
Ankle Joint Fusion – For patients with more degeneration, an ankle joint fusion procedure may be in order. Fusing the joint will limit painful movement, helping to eliminate symptoms at the expense of some range of motion. The fusion is performed by using screws or plates to hold the joint in place. After the fusion heals, your doctor may remove the screws or plates used to fix the bones into place, depending on the location of the fusion. The procedure is performed under general or spinal anesthesia, and some patients can leave the same day while others are asked to stay overnight for observation. A splint is typically used for about two weeks before the patient is transitioned to a removable walking boot, and full recovery takes about 3-4 months.
Total Ankle Joint Replacement – Finally, if there’s significant ankle joint damage, a total ankle joint replacement operation may be recommended. During this procedure, an ankle surgeon would replace the bones of the ankle joint with durable artificial parts that are designed to mimic the functions of a healthy joint. Not only can this help reduce or eliminate pain, but it can also improve range of motion and joint flexibility. Similar to ankle fusion, the procedure is performed under general or spinal anesthesia, and a patient typically spends a night in the surgical center for observation. You’ll then be discharged and asked to remain in a splint for about two weeks. After 10-14 days, you’ll have a follow up appointment to determine how to more forward with recovery. Physical therapy begins shortly thereafter and can progress for 4-8 weeks until your ankle regains strength and mobility. Full recovery takes a few months. For more information about any of the above options, or to discuss your ankle arthritis with a specialist, reach out to Dr. Silverman’s office today.