Ankle Fusion vs. Ankle Replacement

When ankle pain from arthritis or injury makes it nearly impossible to walk without significant pain, there are a couple options that a foot and ankle doctor in The Woodlands, TX, will usually recommend. These two options are ankle fusion and ankle replacement procedures. Although the main goal behind each procedure is to treat persistent ankle pain, there are significant differences between the two treatments. Here’s what you need to know about both ankle fusion and ankle replacement.

Main Treatment Differences

There are some significant differences in how these treatments address limited ankle mobility and pain. Ankle fusion is a procedure that requires an orthopedic surgeon to clean out the worn ankle joint and then use bone grafts, screws, and plates to fuse the bones in the joint together. The ankle joint is basically changed to stay in one place, which can create some advantages as well as disadvantages. Ankle replacement doesn’t require the fusion of the joint, but instead, it replaces the worn-out joint components with a prosthesis made of plastic or metal parts. The range of motion is maintained with ankle replacement.

Recovery and Results

A major consideration with any surgical procedure is what the recovery will be like and how successful it will be as well. Ankle replacement is generally regarded as an easier surgery to recover from, taking as long as three months for full recovery. Ankle fusion takes a little longer at four to six months, although physical therapy usually isn’t a required aspect of the recovery process. As far as pain relief is concerned, both surgeries are highly successful with most patients experiencing no pain or very minimal pain compared to what they’ve been enduring. The difference is in the gait following surgery because an ankle replacement generally results in a much more natural gait while fusion can sometimes cause a slightly altered gait, although this isn’t the case with everyone. Each surgery takes about two hours.

Age Considerations

One thing that’s considered heavily when deciding between ankle fusion and ankle replacement surgeries is the age of the patient and their activity level. Ankle fusion is usually recommended for young patients simply because they’re usually more active and will wear out a prosthesis more quickly, which means they would eventually need a revision surgery. This isn’t as common in people older than 55, so ankle replacement is often done in this age range. Ankle fusion is often recommended for younger patients who will see heavier use of the ankle. Orthopedic foot and ankle doctors in The Woodlands, TX, consider numerous factors in addition to age when determining which procedure is best for each patient.

Other Factors

One important factor that you and your doctor should consider when deciding which treatment will be best is other existing medical conditions. Some conditions, such as diabetes, nerve damage, paralysis, or history of infection can eliminate ankle replacement as a treatment option. Being overweight can also make a replacement less effective. Activity level and your mobility goal will also help determine which procedure will be most successful for you. It’s also important to remember that joint fusion can sometimes place additional stress on the other joints of the body and cause problems with arthritis in other areas. Up-and-down or side-to-side movements won’t be possible after a joint fusion.

To ensure you choose the right procedure to relieve ankle pain, contact Ankle & Foot Specialists of Conroe, The Woodlands today.