Treatment at Mayo Clinic

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The type of surgery that is right for you will depend on your age, your level of activity, and the severity of your joint damage or deformity. Mayo Clinic offers many types of ankle surgery, including ankle fusion and ankle replacement.

Ankle fusion

In this procedure, surgeons roughen the ends of the damaged bones and then fasten them together with metal plates and screws. During the healing process, the damaged bones fuse together into one combined bone.

Ankle fusion is usually very successful in relieving arthritis pain, but it also reduces the ankle's motion. To make up for this, nearby joints may move more — which increases their risk of developing arthritis in these joints.

Ankle fusion is more common than is ankle replacement, partly because it holds up better and doesn't require you to restrict your activity as much after recovery. Fusion is generally recommended for younger people with more active lifestyles.

Ankle replacement

Artificial ankle joints have improved tremendously over the past 20 years, but they can still be damaged by high-impact activities such as running and jumping. That's why they're better suited for healthy people over the age of 60 who have less active lifestyles.

During ankle replacement surgery, the ends of the damaged bones are removed and a replacement joint made of plastic and metal is fitted onto the bones. The artificial joint helps the ankle retain more-natural movement, so there is less risk of arthritis developing in nearby joints.

You may not be a good candidate for ankle replacement if you:

  • Are younger than 50
  • Have weakened ankle ligaments
  • Participate in high-impact sports or work
  • Have misaligned ankle bones
  • Are significantly overweight
  • Have nerve damage from diabetes
Jun. 25, 2014