What is Ankle Arthrodesis (Ankle Fusion)?

Dealing with pain is never a good thing but sometimes that pain can make it hard to do everyday chores. Something as simple as walking to the mailbox or even your kitchen can become quite difficult to do. This could be because of your ankle and an injury or arthritis that has taken over the ankle joint. When that happens you can consider a procedure called ankle arthrodesis, or ankle fusion, to help get the movement back that you’re used to.

What is ankle arthrodesis?

This procedure, commonly known as ankle fusion, is only completed when your ankle joint has been completely worn down. This could be due to a variety of things including a severe ankle fracture or degenerative arthritis in the joint itself. After you’ve injured the ankle, several years down the road, it can wear out the joint and it can become quite difficult to move it as you have. This procedure basically removes the joint and allows your tibia to grow together with your footbone. That will remove the joint completely and allow your pain to subside.

What should you expect with this procedure?

Before the surgery, you and your doctor will decide if this procedure is right for you. The ankle fusion is a great choice for those who are younger and are very active as it will not wear out like an ankle joint replacement could. Once you’ve been cleared for surgery your doctor will discuss with you whether an open procedure or arthroscopic procedure is best in your situation. They will also warn you of any risks and answer any questions you may have.

What about after surgery?

You will leave the hospital in a cast and in two weeks that one will be changed to a shorter cast. You cannot put weight on your ankle itself until you’re sure that the bones are fusing properly as they should be. When you have this ankle fusion procedure, it could take up to 12-weeks afterwards for that to be certain. For the best reduction of pain after ankle arthrodesis, it is advised that you keep your ankle elevated about your heart and propped up on pillows to reduce the swelling and throbbing.

Be prepared that you will have rehabilitation to go through and running “normally” will not be possible in the future. However, with the inserts available for your shoes and with rehab, you can begin to walk with a normal gait as you did before.

If you’re dealing with a large amount of pain due to arthritis or injury, an ankle fusion may be your ticket to relief. Consult with your physician to be sure you know the ins and outs of this procedure and to help decide if it’s the route to go for you.

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