Kootenai | Kootenai Health | Issue 1, 2024

Recovery from ankle replacement surgery is different from recovery after hip and knee replacement surgery. Patients do not walk on the new ankle joint for four weeks after the procedure, whereas patients with hip or knee replacements are typically up and walking the same day as their surgeries. “The force of your body weight across the joint is much greater for your ankles than for your knees or hips,” Dr. Rooney said. “The force across your hip joint is about one-and-a-half times your body weight, and knees are three times your body weight. The force across the ankle joint is six times your body weight, so we have to give ankles additional time to heal before they become weight-bearing.” Following ankle replacement surgery, patients use a knee scooter until they can begin to put weight on their ankle. Once they are cleared to be weight-bearing again, physical therapy helps them regain strength and range of motion. Fusion versus replacement “Every person is different, so it’s important to really understand the patient’s unique situation before making a surgical recommendation,” said Dr. Rooney. “Fusion and ankle replacement each have benefits and limitations. While fusions are right in certain situations, they do limit the natural ankle mobility, which places additional stress on surrounding joints. “Ankle replacements allow patients to keep their range of motion, and they are great if you like to walk, hike, golf or play pickleball. They aren’t great under the repetitive impact of running and jumping.” Outstanding results Wendell has had one of each, and for him, the ankle replacement is the clear winner. “The morning after the surgery, my pain—which had consistently been an 8 or 9 out of 10—had dropped to next to nothing,” Wendell said. “Everything came out as good as Dr. Rooney said it would. I can’t recommend it enough.” After healing from his surgery, Wendell and his wife, Debra, made the trip of a lifetime to Europe, visiting half a dozen destination cities. One day he logged 8 miles of walking on his new ankle, and he is comfortable walking on uneven ground again. “I would recommend Dr. Rooney to anybody I know,” said Wendell. “I feel so good, I’m even thinking of golfing this summer.” Why Ankle Replacements Are Less Common Hip and knee replacements are done largely in response to the deterioration of cartilage in the joint as a result of wear-andtear osteoarthritis. Most ankle replacements, however, like Wendell’s, are needed because of a traumatic injury that later causes arthritis. As a result, around 12,000 ankle replacement surgeries are done nationally each year, as compared to about 700,000 total knee replacements. Ankle replacements are also comparatively new; the newest modern ankle implants have only been available for about 12 years, while artificial knees have been available for about 30. Treat your feet Visit KH.org/foot-and-ankle to find out how we can help. KH.ORG 19