Patient Guide: Total Ankle Replacement

Replacing a painful ankle joint can return arthritis patients to a pain-free life

ROSEMONT, Ill. (May 27, 2014) —Retired firefighter Thomas Lynch was all too familiar with the pain that comes with severe ankle arthritis. Lynch experienced multiple ankle injuries in his 30-year career, and by the time he retired, his unstable ankle was frequently rolling and adding to the pain of his arthritis.
“I was having cortisone shots two to three times a year, and that helped a little, but after a while it wasn’t helping enough,” says Lynch, who lives in Chicago. “I had a lot of pain in my right ankle, and it was hard to walk just a block or two. So it got to the point where I had to seek out an orthopaedic surgeon.”
With the help of his orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist, Lynch considered several surgical options for his arthritis. In the end he chose a total ankle replacement and hasn’t looked back. He’s returned to his active lifestyle, which includes walking his dog again after years of having to turn the leash over to family members. Now he’s able to walk as far and as long as he likes without pain.
Lynch is part of a growing number of patients choosing total ankle replacement for severe arthritis that doesn’t respond to conservative treatments. The procedure, which is also known as total ankle arthroplasty, is performed by an orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon while the patient is under general anesthetic. In simple terms, the orthopaedic surgeon cuts bones in the ankle to make room for an implant that re-creates the ankle joint.
A period of recovery and rehabilitation follows the surgery. Patients must not put weight on their foot for many days to control swelling and improve wound healing. After the surgical wounds have healed, most orthopaedic surgeons will allow patients to bear weight if X-rays show good healing. Most patients go on to have physical therapy with good results.
“If you’re having trouble getting around, consider the quality of your life,” Lynch says. “I had trouble walking just a block and I had to sit down because of the pain. For a short time of recovery and a month or two of rehab, [an ankle replacement] will make quite a difference in the quality of your life.”
Not everyone is a candidate for a total ankle replacement, but for those who are, this option offers an effective treatment for painful and disabling arthritic ankles.
Those suffering from ankle arthritis should consult an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist for their care. These surgeons are specially trained to perform ankle replacements and other treatments, and they have the expertise to manage the follow-up care that’s needed.
For more details on how total ankle replacement surgery is done, visit the Total Ankle Arthroplasty page at, the patient education website of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.
About the AOFAS
The AOFAS promotes quality, ethical and cost-effective patient care through the education, research and training of orthopaedic surgeons and other health care providers. The Society creates public awareness for the prevention and treatment of foot and ankle disorders, provides leadership, and serves as a resource for government and industry as well as the national and international health care communities.​

About Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons use medical, physical and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery to treat patients of all ages. Relying on four years of medical school training, five years of post-graduate training and often a fellowship in foot and ankle care, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons perform reconstructive procedures, treat sports injuries, and manage and treat trauma of the foot and ankle.
Jennifer Hicks
Director of Public Education
Office: 847-430-5079