What Should I Expect from Ankle Surgery?

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  • Written By: S. Zaimov
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Ankle surgery is a type of operation performed on the joint that links the leg to the foot. Patients who have recurrent ankle sprain injuries and experience persistent pain may require this type of procedure. Surgery may also be needed to correct deformities or replace parts of the joint.

An ankle sprain usually occurs when a foot is turned sharply, tearing or stretching the ligaments, which are the tissues that connect the bones. Ligaments that have not healed properly may leave the ankle joint too loose, which causes difficulty when walking. Before ankle surgery, a doctor often physically examines the patient and uses an x-ray to determine how loose the injured ankle is. During the procedure, a surgeon will usually attempt to tighten the ligaments and stabilize the foot.

An ankle fracture is another common type of injury, in which the ankle bone is typically chipped or cracked. Related damage to nearby tissues and blood vessels can cause swelling and bruising on the foot. In some cases, the fracture may require an operation to realign the bones. The foot is then placed into a cast, which immobilizes and protects the ankle, giving it time to heal.


People who have a bone deformity that limits their movement may need an ankle replacement procedure, wherein the worn out joint surface is removed and replaced with a plastic or metal implant. Ankle fusion, on the other hand, is performed on patients suffering from a long history of disease, such as severe arthritis. This operation joins or fuses parts of the bones together and makes them stronger. Degenerative joint disease and joint collapses due to diabetes are other conditions may also require this type of surgery.

Many hospitals or clinics administer local anesthesia for ankle surgery. This is a type of sedative that blocks the pain in a specific part of the body during, and after, an operation. The benefits of this over general anesthesia, which is a state of total unconsciousness, are that it generally has fewer side effects and a faster recovery time. Depending on the type of injury and procedure, the surgery can take several hours and the patient may go home the same day.

The length of patient recovery time depends on the type of ankle surgery performed. Some people recover faster if they are given a removable cast that allows them to exercise the ankle. Doctors often advise patients to practice movement only after the joint has stabilized, to prevent further injury. When performed properly, these exercises can help a great deal with the rehabilitation process.


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