What is Ankle Fusion Surgery?
The surgeon fuses all the ankle bones into one bone, reducing the range of motion but greatly reducing the potential for ankle arthritis to cause someone pain or discomfort.
Who should have Ankle Fusion Surgery?
As most people prefer not to lose range of motion in their foot or feet, this surgery is reserved for those with severe ankle arthritis or young patients that are not candidates for an ankle replacement. Typically, many conservative treatments are tried first, including:
- pain medication
- steroid injections
- rest or activity modifications
- walkers or canes
- ankle braces and
- special shoes and/or orthotics
Does an Ankle Fusion Surgery Work?
Ankle Fusion Surgery is an open surgery and has the same risks as all open surgeries: blood clotting, infection and others your physician may discuss with you.
The success rate of the bones fusing together as planned is 90 percent. Should the bones not fuse, a second surgery to encourage bone growth and new implant materials may be needed.
The surgery is very successful at halting the progression of arthritis of the ankle and reducing pain. However, the tradeoff is reduced range of motion in the ankle. Also, it’s important to understand that this surgery will probably change the way you walk (gait). This change can sometimes lead to increased pressure and inflammation of the other joints that have to pick up the slack.
What can I expect when I have an Ankle Fusion Surgery?
You may need a pre-surgical physical to make any necessary accommodations based on your health history. You may have physical therapy before surgery. When you arrive at the hospital, you’ll speak to your surgeon and anesthesiologist. You will likely be under general anesthesia (fully asleep) for this procedure. Your foot will be in a splint or cast after surgery, and you will typically stay overnight in the hospital for 1-2 days.
While in the hospital, our nurse navigator will go over your care plan with you and your loved ones. Your foot will require elevation for at least a week is essential to prevent swelling and help the wound heal. Shortly after than, the stiches or staples will be removed. It’s advisable to have someone home with you to help you adjust for 1-2 weeks. Crutches, walkers and wheelchairs are all options for mobility.
Full fusion of your ankle joint will take about 10 to 12 weeks, and you’ll be unable to put weight on your leg during the first six weeks. Physical therapy will help you gradually begin working on joint movement and putting weight on your leg in a smart way that will avoid any setbacks.
Your boot will be removed in about three months. You should be ready to walk by then, but it may be a little bit longer before you are ready for long distances or rigorous activity.