What is an Ankle Fusion?
Foot and Ankle Specialists perform an ankle fusion surgery (also known as ankle arthrodesis) to “fuse” or connect specific bones of the ankle into one piece, usually to treat arthritis pain that comes from the bones grinding against each other. Over time, the smooth cartilage on the bones wears away into arthritic cartilage. This causes pain, inflammation, and swelling in the joint. Ankle fusion surgery helps stop the pain and swelling. The surgeon will make an incision in the ankle to open up the joint. The surgeon will then push the bones together and secure them in place with plates, screws, or a bone graft to help the bones heal together.
In some cases, surgeons can perform an ankle fusion minimally invasive.
Reasons to Get an Ankle Fusion.
You may require an ankle fusion if you suffer from severe arthritis in the ankle. Severe arthritis can cause severe pain, stiffness and inflammation that can lead to difficulty walking. The 3 main types of ankle arthritis include:
- Osteoarthritis, caused gradually by wear and tear.
- Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that damages the joints
- Arthritis caused by a previous injury
If you have mild arthritis, your physician will most likely advise patients to undergo conservative treatments first. This includes anti-inflammatory pain medicines and Intra-articular joint injections. Patients may try special shoes or shoe inserts or try physical therapy. If patients attempting these conservative treatments still show severe symptoms that interfere with daily life, your treating physician may advise an ankle fusion surgery.
What Happens After an Ankle Fusion?
Talk to your Foot and Ankle Specialist about what to expect after surgery. Patients may require follow-up X-rays to make sure surgery went as planned. Patients may possibly need to stay at the hospital for a few days. Pain medicines may help to relieve post-surgery pain. Patients will need to rest and elevate their leg as much as possible immediately following surgery.
After surgery, patients will need to wear a splint and use crutches for a couple of weeks. The surgeon will carefully instruct patients on how they can move their foot as they recover, and will replace the splint with a cast or medical boot a couple of weeks after surgery. Patients may require occasional physical therapy visits for some months to help maintain strength in the ankle and leg. Make sure to follow all your physician’s instructions about medicines, ankle care, and exercises. This will help make sure the surgery works well for you.