If you have ankle arthritis and you're in a lot of pain, your doctor might recommend seeing an orthopedic surgeon about an ankle replacement. With this surgery, the surgeon removes your painful ankle joint and puts in a synthetic one. This alleviates pain and increases your ankle's range of motion.
Since you won't be able to bear weight on the ankle for several weeks, you'll want to know what to expect during recovery from an ankle replacement. Here are some things to discuss with your orthopedic surgeon.
If You Can Recover At Home
You'll probably stay in the hospital for a couple of days after your surgery, and then you'll have to go home or to a rehab facility. Your doctor considers your general health and whether you live alone when deciding the best way to support your recovery.
You'll need help taking care of yourself and preparing meals since getting around will be challenging at first. If you don't have the help you need, then staying at a rehab facility for a few weeks might be the right choice for you.
If You'll Need Physical Therapy
You'll probably need physical therapy during your recovery. You might start therapy in the hospital when the therapist teaches you how to walk on crutches or with a walker. You might even start physical therapy before you have the surgery so your ankle is as strong and fit as possible.
When you're inactive, your muscles get weak fast. Physical therapy will probably be needed once your ankle has mended to build the muscles that support your ankle and increase the range of motion of your joint. You might also need to build strength in the muscles of your legs, hips, and back due to inactivity.
When You Can Bear Weight Again
It will probably be several weeks before you can walk on your foot again, and even then, you may use a special walking boot. You'll probably start off with a splint when you leave the hospital and then transition to a cast in a few weeks.
When the cast is ready to come off, the doctor might have you wear a walking boot for a while. During this time, you need to stay mobile to reduce your risk of blood clots. Plus, you may need to go back to work if you have a desk job that doesn't require a lot of activity.
You won't be able to bear weight on your foot, so you'll need to use crutches or a walker so you can get around without putting any weight on your foot. It could be a few months until you start bearing weight again.
If crutches are not suitable for you, then your doctor can arrange for you to use a walker or wheelchair so you can be mobile and stay active during your recovery. It could take several months to a year before you completely heal and find your new normal level of activity.