Ankle Surgery, Recovery Time & Choosing the Right Surgeon
Milwaukee Ankle Surgery Specialists Providing Minimally Invasive Treatments for Ankle Pain
Ankle surgery is needed when conservative treatments for painful ankle conditions aren’t effective. Ankle surgery may also be recommended to correct a deformity (such as osteochondritis dissecans) or to prevent an ankle condition from getting worse in the future.
Reasons for ankle surgery include:
- Severe or repeated ankle injuries such as sprains and fractures
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic inflammatory disorder)
- Ruptured tendons
Contact an experienced foot & ankle surgeon today for an assessment & recommendation for your painful ankle condition. The expert podiatrists at Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin will determine the best course of treatment and show you how we put the care back into patient care!
Types of Ankle Surgery
Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) means examining the fractured bones of the ankle joint and fixing them in the correct position using metal screws, plates, wires or rods. This type of ankle surgery is used to stabilize and heal bone fractures.
Most ankle fractures don’t require ORIF, but if bones are significantly out of place or broken into several pieces, internal fixation may be necessary to keep the bones in proper alignment during the healing process.
Ankle arthroscopy uses small surgical instruments and a fiber-optic camera to operate on or near the ankle joint. Only small incisions are necessary, reducing scarring. Ankle arthroscopy can be used to fix fractures on the surface of bones, remove bone spurs or loose bodies and debride (remove) inflamed or damaged synovial tissue (the soft tissue lining the ankle joint).
Total ankle replacement (total ankle arthroplasty or TAA) is used to treat ankle arthritis if conservative treatments fail. The arthritis may result from wear and tear over the years or from an injury. It can cause deformation, pain and loss of cartilage. With ankle replacement surgery, metal and plastic components replace the affected ankle joint, improving range of motion to reduce pain during activity. Restoring mobility to the ankle joint helps protect other joints from increased wear and arthritis.
Ankle fusion means removing the damaged ankle joint and fusing the talus (ankle bone) to the tibia (shin bone). The result is a pain-free ankle with restricted range of motion. The foot will remain at a right angle to the lower leg as it does when you are standing. After ankle fusion surgery, screws hold the bones in place until new bone grows across, completing the fusion.
Ankle fusion surgery can be done using arthroscopy without opening up the ankle joint.
Ankle ligament reconstruction (ALR) surgery treats chronic lateral ankle instability (the feeling of your ankle ‘giving way’) when conservative treatments fail. Sometimes the patient’s own ankle ligaments can be tightened and repaired with stitches. In other cases a tendon is used to replace torn ligaments.
Achilles tendon rupture surgery repairs the Achilles tendon so the calf muscle is reconnected to the heel bone. This restores tendon function and strength which is crucial for walking and other activities. A surgeon sews together the two ends of the ruptured tendon, which is done using the open repair technique or by drawing the tendon out through a small incision.
Ankle Surgery Recovery Timeline & Information
Recovery from ankle surgery will vary depending on the complexity of your procedure. In general you can expect to spend around 6-8 weeks in a cast or boot, followed by physical therapy.
The first week after your ankle surgery, you’ll need to keep the post-op bandages dry, keep your ankle elevated as much as possible and treat with ice as needed for pain and swelling. There will be a follow up appointment within a week of your ankle surgery.
While the fiberglass cast is on (2-3 weeks), there is no weight-bearing activity allowed. This means you cannot stand or walk unless you use crutches, a walker or a leg scooter.
While wearing a walking cast or boot (4-6 weeks) you can begin to transition to full weightbearing activity at your own pace. The boot can be removed for showering and sleeping. A compression stocking may be recommended if troublesome swelling persists.
Physical therapy sessions (4-6 weeks) include recovery exercises to increase mobility, strength and flexibility. Always folow the instructions of your doctor and physical therapist and bring up any concerns about the healing process immediately.
You may be able to resume running or other activities a few months after your ankle surgery. Again, time to complete recovery will depend on the severity of your condition, your overall health and the skill of your surgeon.
Questions About Ankle Surgery & Recovery
Many patients have questions about driving, scarring, pain treatments, nerve blocks and other post-ankle surgery topics. Contact the ankle surgery specialists at one of our Milwaukee-area podiatry clinics for more information on ankle surgery and recovery.
Surgical Podiatrist vs Orthopedic Surgeon
Surgical podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons both diagnose and treat foot and ankle conditions. However their medical training and experience is different.
One benefit of choosing a doctor of podiatric medicine trained in foot and ankle surgery is a high degree of specialization. Orthopedic surgeons have a general medical background and training. They diagnose problems and operate on the entire musculoskeletal system, including feet and ankles.
Surgical podiatrists study medicine as it applies to feet and ankles followed by years of surgical residency training focused exclusively on foot and ankle surgery.
A podiatrist may also be more inclined to look for conservative treatments for ankle pain first, opting for ankle surgery only as a last resort. When ankle surgery is called for, the highly experienced surgical podiatrists of Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin will determine the least invasive procedure to correct your condition.
Ankle Surgeons Serving Patients in the Greater Milwaukee Area
By minimizing the frequency and invasiveness of ankle surgery, our foot and ankle specialists help patients heal from painful ankle issues quickly and return to the activities they enjoy.
If you’re suffering from a painful foot or ankle condition, the most important thing is choosing a doctor you trust and feel comfortable seeing. Read our Milwaukee podiatrist reviews or schedule a consultation today with the foot and ankle doctors who put the care back in patient care.