Review the steps, below, to learn more about what you can expect before, during, and after your ankle replacement.
In the weeks leading up to your surgery, maintain an exercise program approved by your physician. If you smoke or drink alcohol, stop. These activities can impair your body’s ability to heal. If you are overweight, focus on safely losing weight — just a few pounds can make a difference. Check with your primary care provider to make sure that your vaccines are up to date. See your dentist. Severe gum disease, an abscess or other oral infection could delay surgery. Keep in mind that mouth germs can enter your bloodstream and infect your new ankle joint
Have someone go with you to all your pre-op appointments and take careful note of all instructions. Arrange for post-surgical care and rehabilitation services well in advance. Double check paperwork with your insurance company and the hospital. Confirm that you have reliable transportation to and from the hospital. You won’t be able to drive post-surgery — run your errands in advance.
Identify any slipping or tripping hazards such as area rugs or tricky steps and remove them or devise a plan to work around them. If you have pets, arrange for someone to care for them outside of your home post-surgery. An excited pet jumping up on you or underfoot could cause you to trip or fall.
If your physician uses the PROPHECY™ Preoperative Navigational System, you may be asked to get a CT scan. It will be important for the facility to fulfill the CT scan following PROPHECY™ protocol. This important step can help ensure accurate implant sizing and alignment, which can positively impact your new joint’s long-term success.
Take only the prescriptions and over the counter medications approved by your physician for use before surgery. Fill any new prescriptions in advance and take as instructed. Follow dietary instructions, which will include fasting the night before.
To prevent pain during surgery, you’ll receive anesthesia. General anesthesia will put you to sleep.
If your physician uses the PROPHECY™ system, he will use the alignment guides designed for your unique anatomy to perform the cuts required for your ankle to receive the implants. These patient-specific guides are shown to help ensure correct alignment*, a key factor in your implant’s long-term performance. Next, your physician will remove damaged bone and cartilage. Then your physician will smooth the bones’ surfaces and insert the implant components. Most ankle replacement surgeries are completed in 1-1/2 to 3 hours. (PROPHECY™ alignment guides are only available with Wright’s total ankle systems.)
*Berlet GC, Penner MJ, et. al. FAI 2014
You can expect numbness in your leg up to 18 hours following surgery. As feeling returns, you may experience some minor pain, which will be managed with oral pain and/or IV medications. A dressing will cover the surgery site. A splint will protect your ankle from injury.
NOTE: The following information is based on a general protocol. You should follow the post-op protocol provided by your surgeon. Protocols can vary by surgeon and individual patient factors. You can see sample protocols here.
Now you will begin two to six weeks of non-weight-bearing activity. Medical staff will give you crutches or a walker and instruct you in how to get up and start moving. Pain management may still be necessary.
Your hospital stay will continue until your pain is under control, and you are able to get around safely with crutches or a walker. Hospital stays typically last two to three days. You will be discharged to your home or a rehabilitation center.
Take pain medication as directed. You may use ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Using pillows, elevate your leg above your heart when lying down. If you experience severe pain, fever, chills, swelling, numbness or drainage from the wound, contact your physician immediately.
A wet bandage can lead to infection. Keep your bandage clean and dry. Ask your physician about when you can start taking showers. Cover your bandage with a plastic bag to keep it dry, and sit on a bench or chair while in the shower.
Let someone else do your job and the chores. Your primary concern is healing. Gentle, non-weight-bearing exercise may be permitted. When you can press down on the pedal without feeling pain, you will be cleared to drive. Check in with your physician to have your stitches removed.
Your doctor will recommend physical therapy to strengthen your ankle and increase your range of motion. You may be able to resume work if your job is not physically demanding. At six weeks, your X-ray will show if you are healing well enough to trade in your crutches for a boot and to start walking on the ankle.
Your physician will likely replace your boot with a special shoe that braces and protects your ankle. Your physical therapist will recommend additional exercises and activities.
Regaining your old swagger and getting back to many of your favorite activities may take a full year. Your ankle should be able to withstand swimming, hiking, and biking; you should avoid high-impact activities like running.