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Total Ankle Replacement

 About Total Ankle Replacement

Spectrum Health offers the only total replacement program in West Michigan. Our orthopedic experts treat various forms of ankle and foot problems. The ankle supports a force about five times a person's body weight when walking. Normally, cartilage in the ankle joint cushions the bones and walking is painless. When the cartilage is seriously damaged by arthritis or an injury, however, the pain can be debilitating.

Each year, an estimated 50,000 people experience end-stage ankle arthritis―meaning ankle cartilage has worn away completely, causing painful bone-on-bone contact and some level of disability. At this stage, ankle replacement may be considered.  Certain patients may be considered for ankle replacement when non-surgical treatment options (anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling, pain relievers, pads or arch supports or physical therapy) fail. Your care team will determine if you’re a good candidate for total ankle replacement surgery.

Ankle replacements are generally recommended in older, less active patients and those who have arthritis in the joints of their foot as well as their ankle. The ideal patient is around 60 years old and of normal weight. Total replacement surgery may not be right for you if:

  • You’re younger and active; ankle fusion surgery may be a better alternative.
  • You are overweight; increased weight on the joint can lead to additional problems
  • You have poor circulation in your feet or ankles, caused by diabetes or peripheral artery disease

We'll provide you and your family the education you need to feel comfortable and prepared before and after surgery.

Surgical Options for Total Ankle Replacement

When non-surgical options aren't healing your ankle, surgery may be your next best option. Among other treatments, we offer the three main types of surgery to repair your ankle, including:  

  1. Arthroscopic surgery can usually help in the early stages of arthritis. During this procedure, a small instrument about the size of a pencil, called an arthroscope, is inserted into the joint. A surgeon can then view the inside of the joint on a monitor. Using tiny forceps, knives and shavers, the surgeon can clean out the joint area, removing any foreign tissues or bone spurs present in the joint. 
  2. Arthrodesis, or ankle fusion, involves removing the ankle joint and fusing together the fibula (calf bone), tibia (shin bone) and talus (foot bone) with rods, pins, screws and plates. After healing, the bones remain fused together. 
  3. Total ankle replacement, (ankle arthroplasty), is usually reserved for cases of severe, late-stage ankle arthritis. The worn out joint surfaces of the end of the shin bone (tibia) and the top of the ankle bone (talus) are removed. A metal and plastic implant is put in place to act as the new joint.