The lower extremity really is an incredible design in motion. So many parts and pieces work together to make even the smallest movement possible. Unfortunately, our bodies aren’t invincible. When a traumatic injury occurs or conservative efforts have failed to help, surgery is sometimes needed to put the parts and pieces back together.
The ankle in particular is a very complex mechanism. The tibia, fibula, and talus are the three bones that make up the main ankle joint and allow the up and down motion of the foot. There is actually a second joint underneath this one called the subtalar joint, which is made of the talus and the calcaneus (the bone that forms the heel) and allows the foot to move side-to-side. Woodworkers actually use a similar design to the ankle when joining materials together to create sturdy structures and items.
When you walk, run, and jump, it is these two joints in conjunction with the tendons and muscles in your leg that make it all possible. The ankle is made to be a very stable joint as it absorbs up to 1.5 times your body weight while walking and up to eight times during a run. While playing such a crucial role, the ankle is also vulnerable to injury. In fact, there are several injuries and conditions that often require surgical intervention for complete healing.
There are several reasons why surgery may be required to resolve symptoms and/or get your ankle back to health and in good working order.
This is when one or more bones is broken, which affects the stability of the ankle. It can happen with a twist or roll of the ankle or during impact in an accident. Surgery is often needed when the broken bones have shifted and are out of place. We would have to reposition the bones back into place and hold them there with screws and/or metal plates.
You will start out in a cast or removable brace and then move to an ankle brace for extra protection when you are back on your foot. It often takes at least six weeks for complete healing to take place and possibly more if there are torn tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint as well. Proper rehabilitation is extremely important and it’s crucial to stay off your ankle. The fractured bones could move again, which would take you back to the start. Rushing through the process could leave you with lingering pain and chronic ankle instability. Patience and time go hand in hand after ankle surgery.
When the cartilage that covers the end of your bones starts to thin and wear down, great discomfort can result. This can happen within the ankle joint and it usually stems from osteoarthritis. If the pain and swelling become severe or deformity begins, surgery can be done to try and help resolve your symptoms. This may involve removing the ankle joint and fusing the talus to the tibia. The two bones are held together with screws and over time, new bone actually grows across making the two bones into one. You would be in a cast for 6-12 weeks and it could take over three months for the fusion to be complete. This would leave you with a stiffened but, in most cases, pain-free ankle.
Full ankle replacements have not been around or used as long as hips and knees but they are done in more severe cases. While they only last for 10 to 15 years, they can provide pain-free mobility to those who have lost use of their ankle or are in severe pain.
If you would like to discuss ankle surgery or have an injury that has you concerned, contact Dallas Podiatry Works. Dr. Joel W. Brook and Dr. David R. Northcutt are top experts in the field of foot care and have the treatment options to get you back on your feet. Call our office in Dallas, TX, at (972) 566-7474 or Plano, TX, at (972) 943-3323.