If it was possible to treat every foot and ankle condition with nonsurgical care, we absolutely would. Unfortunately, the simple truth is that this isn’t possible. There are times when ankle surgery is the best option.
Whereas conservative treatment can help most foot and ankle conditions, there are a couple types of ankle injuries that might need surgery for optimal healing. A main one is arthritis, with osteoarthritis being a primary concern. This condition can be addressed with ankle fusion or replacement procedures, depending on the nature and severity of a patient’s specific case.
Ankle fractures that are severe or unstable can require surgery. This applies to open fractures (where bone has broken through the skin). A broken ankle that is stable, though, will simply need nonsurgical treatment.
Achilles tendon disorders are also injuries that may need surgical procedures when conservative care does not provide ample relief. The good news is that these surgeries tend to be rarely required.
Signs that ankle surgery is your best bet for pain relief and restored functionality include:
Conservative care isn’t working. As stated, we always hope to relieve your pain without needing to resort to surgery. In most cases, we will start treating your condition with nonsurgical methods and see if they help. If they don’t, this is a sign surgery might be needed.
You have severe pain. Intense pain is often an indication of a major issue. Many bone fractures cause severe pain and, if the broken ends do not line up correctly, surgery may be required to ensure proper healing.
Impaired or restricted functionality. If your ankle doesn’t move in the correct manner, you may need surgical intervention to restore functionality. Whether you decide to undergo a surgery will depend on your goals and favorite activities. Those who lead an active lifestyle may find this is the best course of action to allow them to perform in activities they enjoy.
The condition itself. There are a variety of conditions that are more likely to necessitate surgery than others. Examples of these include: arthritis, trauma, cartilage damage, bones spurs, posterior ankle pain, and the need for ankle replacement.
We are recommending it. If we don’t need to perform a surgery to address your problem, we won’t do one. We are experienced, skilled, and consistently perform successful procedures, but our goal is to use conservative care options.
Some of the key tools in deciding whether to recommend surgery or not include: x-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.
The most important factor in our decision is the stability of your ankle joint. If the result of your existing condition is an unstable joint, then surgery is likely going to be recommended. Your mobility is the primary concern in this situation, and trying to save or re-establish it becomes paramount.
In the instance of a compound fracture in an ankle, surgery becomes an obvious necessity. In part, there are high odds of infection—caused by breakage in the skin—and immediate operation is needed in order to prevent contamination. But there is also an urgent need to stabilize the fracture as quickly as possible.
Here at Sierra Foot & Ankle, we typically explore conservative treatment options before recommending surgical procedures, but you can take comfort in the fact that we are quite experienced at performing effective ankle surgeries. If you are experiencing an ankle issue, come see us at either our Carson City or Gardnerville offices. We will diagnose the problem and create a treatment plan that works for you. Give us a call at (775) 783-8037 or request an appointment online today.