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Ankle Surgery

Surgery for Achy Ankles

You don’t have to be a competitive figure skater or basketball star to injure your ankle — or even develop ankle arthritis. Ankle arthritis can happen to anyone, and the symptoms can keep you from enjoying life to the fullest.

Anatomy of the Ankle

There are three bones that make up the ankle joint:

  • The shinbone, the lower end of the big leg bone called the tibia
  • The lower end of the fibula, the smaller bone of the lower leg
  • The talus, the bone that surrounds the place where the tibia and fibula met, forming the ankle joint

When the cartilage in your ankle joint wears away, the ankle bones start to rub directly against each other, accelerating joint damage and triggering severe pain.

Ankle Arthritis

There are three types of ankle arthritis. Osteoarthritis stems from simple wear and tear over time. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes swelling and deterioration of the synovial membrane covering the joint. Post-traumatic arthritis is the result of damage from a fracture. Whatever caused your ankle arthritis, the symptoms are the same:

  • Pain with motion
  • Flare-ups of pain with vigorous activity
  • Tenderness at the joint
  • Joint swelling, warmth, and redness
  • Increased pain and swelling in the morning, or after sitting or resting
  • Difficulty walking

Ankle Issues that May Require Surgery

  • Fractured ankle
  • Arthritis that causes pain and immobility
  • Chronic ankle instability from multiple sprains or other causes
  • Deformity of the ankle
  • Chronic tendonitis/synovitis of the ankle

Types of Ankle Surgery

  • Ankle Arthroscopy: Minimally invasive ankle surgery for arthritis and ankle injuries
  • Tendon Surgery: Performed for chronic tendonitis or synovitis of the ankle–can involve anything from repairing a simple tear to removing and replacing a diseased tendon
  • Ankle Fracture Surgery: Performed to stabilize a broken ankle so it heals properly, this surgery will depend on the type of fracture and may involve the use of screws, metal plates, and small metal wires to hold broken bones in place
  • Brostrom Procedure: Also known as lateral ankle ligament reconstruction, this surgery tightens loose and weakened ligaments in people with chronic ankle instability or foot deformities
  • Ankle Fusion: In this procedure to treat severe ankle arthritis, the surgeon removes damaged arthritic tissue on the ankle joint and then fuses the ankle bones together permanently
  • Ankle Replacement: The damaged ankle joint is replaced with a plastic or metal prosthetic joint

Ankle fusion and ankle replacement each have their pros and cons and you should discuss them in detail with your surgeon. You and your doctor will need to weigh a variety of factors, including your age, weight, and activity level, and whether you have weak ankle ligaments, misaligned ankle bones, or nerve damage from diabetes.