Mayo Clinic orthopedic foot and ankle specialists conduct a comprehensive orthopedic evaluation to determine if ankle replacement is the most appropriate treatment for the patient. Because significant risks and possible complications may occur, specialists recommend ankle replacement only after a comprehensive evaluation. Patients who may benefit most from ankle replacement are those who also have another bad ankle or an injury or arthritis elsewhere in the foot or knee on the affected side. Patients who have reduced range of motion because of previous fusions below the ankle may be good candidates.
In ankle replacement surgery, a surgeon makes an incision in the front of the ankle and removes the damaged joint surfaces. The surfaces are replaced with plastic and metal devices called prostheses.
Ankle replacement may give the patient movement in the foot and a near-normal gait. After surgery, patients may walk and take part in low-impact activities such as golf. They should not, however, engage in such exercises as step aerobics or use an incline treadmill or stairstep machine. Artificial joints can wear or become loose, and may eventually need to be replaced. A replacement joint's life depends on how the joint is used.