You don’t need to be in a major incident to hurt an ankle. Even a simple misstep can damage the delicate bones and joints of the ankles. More than 100,000 Americans suffer an ankle fracture each year to show how common these injuries are.
Most patients make full recoveries. Yet some injuries can lead to long-term disability.
Arthritis of the ankle, usually brought about by repeated injuries, can be debilitating. If you suffer from this condition, you may find yourself forced to consider the pros and cons of ankle fusion vs replacement.
To help you decide which option is right for you, let’s take a look at these procedures and why they may be necessary.
When Does Someone Need an Ankle Replacement or Fusion?
The best treatment for ankle problems is prevention. Individuals who live an active lifestyle should take every precaution to avoid injuries. Failing that, they should allow themselves ample time to recover from any injury.
Not all injuries are avoidable, however. Once someone develops ankle problems, the next step is treating and managing the injury.
Surgery is rarely the first resort. You may be prescribed medication to manage arthritis symptoms or advised that losing weight may take the pressure off of the joint. Some patients report relief from natural remedies.
In the long run, however, arthritis tends to get worse over time. Persistent arthritis of the ankle can make daily activities intolerable.
Ankle fusion and ankle replacement are surgical procedures that can alleviate pain and restore mobility to the limb. They are often the best means to achieve permanent relief.
Ankle Fusion Vs Replacement: How Do They Compare?
Ankle replacement involves replacing the damaged joint with a metal and plastic prosthesis. Patients can regain a significant range of motion, and most return to active lifestyles.
The trade-off is that while replacements are a long-term solution, they’re not always permanent. Artificial ankles can wear out and need to be replaced. However, most are still in good working order over a decade after being implanted, so ankle replacements are still an excellent choice.
Ankle fusion involves fusing the bones with a system of screws, plates, and bone grafts. This procedure can alleviate pain but at the cost of restricting the ankle’s range of motion.
This reduced mobility can affect a person’s walking pattern, which in turn can cause increased wear and tear on other parts of the ankle, knee, and foot. Over time, they might develop arthritis in these other joints.
On the other hand, they may be the only viable solution for some patients. Individuals with certain health conditions like obesity, nerve damage, a history of severe infection, or diabetes may not be candidates for an ankle replacement.
It’s also a permanent solution. Barring another major injury, you should never need to have your ankle re-fused.
Choosing the Right Foot and Ankle Doctor
When deciding between ankle fusion vs replacement, the input of an experienced surgeon is invaluable. If you’re unsure which ankle surgery is right for you, The Flint Foot and Ankle Institute is here to help.
We provide expert care in all aspects of foot and ankle health, from non-surgical intervention and arthritis treatment to ankle fusion and replacement. Schedule an appointment with us today to find the right care option for you.