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Though many people have never heard of it, ankle replacement surgery addresses the very painful and prevalent problem in the U.S. of ankle arthritis. In the roughly 50,000 patients who are found each year to have no cartilage left in their ankles, the only option surgeons had until recently, was to fuse the bones together. That stopped the pain, but severely limited motion. But now, these patients are increasingly turning to ankle replacement surgery.

Dr. Nick Gates, orthopaedic surgeon at Commonwealth Orthopaedic Centers, performs the complicated procedure on patients at the Total Joint Center at St. Elizabeth Edgewood. He has spent more than 15 years specializing in foot and ankle sports medicine and reconstruction, and has been performing total ankle replacements since 2004.

What happens during the surgery?
During the procedure, arthritic bone and degenerative cartilage are removed, and bones in the lower leg and ankle are reshaped so the ankle replacement joint can fit precisely. Physical therapy begins almost immediately after recovery and lasts up to three months. Patients remain on crutches for approximately six weeks.

Surgical experience is critical
Like other joint replacement surgery, ankle replacement poses some risks, including the possibility of stiffness and infection.

Quality, safety and surgical success come with experience. That’s why it’s critical that patients choose an experienced surgeon who practices at a center- like the Total Joint Center at St. Elizabeth Edgewood -where the nursing and physical therapy staff are specially trained and dedicated to the care of joint replacement patients.

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