To Replace or Not: Total Ankle Arthoplasty

What are the risks of ankle replacement surgery?

Many patients suffer from ankle arthritis due to normal wear and tear brought on by aging. Similarly, those who have suffered an injury such as a broken ankle or dislocation can also develop arthritis. Regardless of the cause, arthritis can lead to painful loss of cartilage and deformities. For this reason, many surgeons recommend replacement of the ankle or a total ankle arthoplasty (TAA).

While another surgical approach is ankle fusion, patients are likely to develop progressive arthritis in the joints surrounding the ankle in the fullness of time. TAA is designed to preserve the motion of the ankle and protect the surrounding joints from additional wear. As a result of new implant designs and improved surgical techniques which have helped patients to become more active, ankle replacement surgery is becoming far more common.

TAA at a Glance

In spite of TAA being performed more frequently, the procedure is complex and is usually performed under general anesthesia or a nerve block. As with any surgery, there are risks associated with anesthesia. For patients with a significantly deformed Talus, TAA is not an option. The procedure is also not designed for patients who have or had ankle infections, neuropathy, poor blood flow of the leg, and other conditions.

Depending on the type of implant being used, the ankle is removed from the front or the side and replaced with metal or plastic components. The procedure also requires the use of a tourniquet to control bleeding and improve the surgeons ability to see which, in some cases, can cause damage to the blood vessels and nerves. Ankle replacement may also require surgery on the calf muscles or Achilles tendon to improve the patients range of motion. Lastly, the patient will need to be in a cast or cast boot so that weight is not placed on the foot and the implants can heal in place.

Other Complications

In addition to surgical complications mentioned above, patients can also develop an infection, experience excessive bleeding or develop blood clots. Ankle implants can also result in bone fractures, and wound healing poses problems for diabetics, smokers or those who have rheumatoid arthritis. Lastly, the ankle implant may also fail to heal into the bone.

The Takeaway

If you have experienced complications from ankle replacement surgery or the procedure failed, you may be the victim of medical negligence. While all surgeries come with a degree of risk, preventable mistakes occur more frequently than many people realize. If your injury was caused by a doctor’s failure to provide the appropriate standard of care, an experienced malpractice attorney can help you obtain significant compensation.

About the Author
Of all the different areas in medical malpractice, it is podiatry malpractice that has had a particular interest to me. With 42 years practicing law and representing hundreds of victims of malpractice, I have created a law practice in which my clients are comfortable knowing that their case is being handled with my personal attention, in the most professional manner, and without unreasonable delays.