New FootCareMD videos feature patients sharing real-life experiences with both treatments
Rosemont, Ill. (April 14, 2022) – When the swelling, stiffness, and pain of ankle arthritis make it hard to walk or even stand, it may be time to consider ankle fusion or ankle replacement surgery to get you back on your feet. In new videos on FootCareMD.org, the patient education website of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, patients share their experiences with the two procedures.
Prior to considering surgery, your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon may recommend nonsurgical treatments to improve symptoms, such as rest, limiting activities, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections into the joint, or specialty braces that stabilize the ankle. If these treatments do not help, your surgeon will discuss surgical options including ankle fusion and ankle replacement.
Ankle Fusion: Earle’s Story
Earle sought help from Sudheer C. Reddy, MD, a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon at Shady Grove Orthopaedics in Maryland, when his severe ankle arthritis was affecting his ability to work as a farmer and enjoy day-to-day activities. Dr. Reddy recommended an ankle fusion, a procedure that locks or links the two primary bones in the ankle (the tibia and talus) so they can heal together as one bone. This treatment eliminates motion at the ankle joint.
After ankle fusion surgery, patients will need to keep weight off their ankle for at least 6-8 weeks so the bones can successfully fuse together. Patients typically use crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, or scooters to get around during this period. After the recovery phase, you can expect to have limited up-and-down motion in your foot, but normal side-to-side motion.
Following his ankle fusion recovery, Earle was pain-free and able to return to normal activity.
Ankle Replacement: Nancy’s Story
Nancy suffered a broken ankle and was in debilitating pain despite several surgeries. After consulting with Dr. Reddy and expressing her desire to save the current movement in her ankle, she chose to undergo ankle replacement surgery. This procedure removes the ankle joint and replaces it with an artificial implant made of metal and plastic to allow for movement.
Patients must keep the ankle elevated and remain non-weightbearing for about 2-4 weeks after ankle replacement surgery, until the surgical wounds are healed. Your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon may recommend starting light range-of-motion activities before putting weight on the ankle.
Following her ankle replacement recovery, Nancy was able to go on walks, climb stairs, and drive long distances without pain.
Which Surgery Is Right for You?
“In general, ankle replacements are better for those patients who are older, healthy, and have overall reasonable motion in the ankle,” said Dr. Reddy. “Fusions are generally better for younger patients, heavy laborers, or those with pre-existing health conditions that can make recovery from an ankle replacement difficult.”
However, there are many factors that go into this decision, so each individual case should be discussed with a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon. Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons have expertise in both ankle fusion and ankle replacement surgery and will recommend a treatment based on your medical history, risk factors, lifestyle, and treatment goals.
Learn more about ankle conditions and treatments from FootCareMD.
About Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeons
Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Their education and training consist of four years of medical school, five years of postgraduate residency, and a fellowship year of specialized surgical training. These specialists care for patients of all ages, performing reconstructive surgery for deformities and arthritis, treating sports injuries, and managing foot and ankle trauma.
About the AOFAS
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) mobilizes our dynamic community of foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons to improve patient care through education, research, and advocacy. As the premier global organization for foot and ankle care, AOFAS delivers exceptional events and resources for continuous education, funds and promotes innovative research, and broadens patient understanding of foot and ankle conditions and treatments. By emphasizing collaboration and excellence, AOFAS inspires ever-increasing levels of professional performance leading to improved patient outcomes. For more information visit the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society online at aofas.org.
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