What type of therapy is needed after ankle replacement?

If you’ve been struggling with severe arthritis in your foot or ankle, you’ve undoubtedly tried a variety of options before considering surgery. In saying that, the outlook for those who have undergone surgery to relieve pain and stiffness in their ankle is quite good. According to podiatrytoday.com, a BPA podiatry certified publication, more than 4,000 patients have undergone total ankle arthroplasty, commonly referred to as total ankle replacement surgery. Based on the publication’s data, the five-year survival rate for this type of surgery is 78 percent with only 7 percent of patients requiring a revision. Also, the failure rate is only 9 percent, and those failures were due to nonunion. All in all, total ankle replacement surgery is not only a viable solution for resolving ankle pain caused by arthritis but also a highly successful one.


Following surgery, your ankle will likely have to be placed in a splint or cast to allow it to properly heal. Also, a tube will be inserted into your ankle as a means of draining excess blood from the joint, which prevents hematoma and also speeds up healing time. After about two weeks, you can expect to have your stitches removed. You may notice that some of them have been absorbed by the body, but this is natural and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. As far as pain is concerned, it is not unusual to experience some post-surgery discomfort; to help alleviate pain and prevent infection, your surgeon will likely prescribe pain medication and antibiotics. Lastly, multiple X-rays will be taken of your foot/ankle to ensure that your new artificial joint is properly bonding between the fibula and the tibia and, most importantly, hasn’t shifted.


Along with the details concerning ankle replacement surgery, most prospective patients also want to know about the process of rehabilitation, namely the amount of time needed before they can walk normally and have full use of their foot/ankle. With regard to rehabilitation, you will not be able to place your full weight on your ankle/foot right away. The average healing time following surgery is 2 to 3 month; as such, you will need a walker or crutches in the interim. Also, you will more than likely be working with a physical therapist who will provide you with a customized recovery program based on your specific needs. As you begin physical therapy, your treatments will focus on pain management and reducing post-surgery swelling. This process may entail the use of heat treatments, massage, and other forms of hands-on therapy. In addition to managing pain and swelling, these techniques are also great for controlling muscle spasms.


Once you’ve moved past the preliminary recovery phase, your physical therapist will instruct you to perform a variety of range-of-motion exercises. These exercises will help in maximizing mobility and improving stability around your new ankle joint. The rehabilitation journey is a long one, but in no time you’ll have full use of your ankle/foot.

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