Ankle fusion is a surgery that clears out swollen and degenerated cartilage that’s causing pain. After all the damaged tissue is removed, your ankle bones are fused — or combined — together with plates, screws, and/or bone grafts.
This procedure is most commonly used to relieve pain from end-stage ankle arthritis, but you may also need it if you have a degenerative joint disease, an ankle deformity, a bone infection, or a neuromuscular condition.
Matthew Hinderland, DPM, Jordan Cameron, DPM, DPM, Joseph Fleck, DPM, and the rest of our team at Foot & Ankle Institute of Colorado perform ankle fusion surgery to help relieve ankle pain. Here are some questions you’ll want the answers to before having this procedure done.
Why do I need ankle fusion surgery?
Arthritis can cause lots of swelling in your ankle, which results in pain that can be debilitating. Ankle fusion surgery relieves the pain so you can move forward with your life. In addition, this surgery offers benefits like increased foot stability, improved gait, and improved ability to do activities that require you to bear weight on your ankle.
How do I prepare for ankle fusion surgery?
You may need to stop taking some of your medications ahead of time, like any type of blood thinner. You’ll also want to stop smoking before the surgery since it can hinder proper healing.
Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight the evening before your surgery, and make sure to tell your provider about any sudden health changes, like if you develop a fever a day or two before the procedure.
You’ll also want to make recovery preparations. Come up with a plan to have a friend or family member drive you home from surgery and help with cooking and chores, as you’ll be off your feet for sometime afterwards. We give you specific aftercare instructions to follow.
What can I expect from the surgery?
This is what you can expect from ankle fusion surgery.
Before the procedure begins, you’re given a nerve block and general anesthesia so you’ll be comfortable. Next, your provider makes an incision to expose the bones and cartilage. He removes the cartilage from around the joint, then fuses your bones together with plates, screws, and/or bone grafts before closing the incision with stitches.
Your provider reviews these steps with you again right before the procedure.
What does recovery time look like?
Recovery time can vary, but you can expect to be in a splint for several weeks in order to limit movement. You’ll also be on crutches during this time. Even after the splint is removed, you won’t be able to put weight on your foot for a few months, and you may still need to wear a cast or boot.
After the cast is removed, you’ll most likely need physical therapy to strengthen your foot and leg. It may be several months before you’re fully recovered from the surgery.
If you’re going to receive ankle fusion surgery soon and have more questions regarding the procedure, call our team at 719-488-4664 to get those questions answered. You can also use our online scheduler to book an appointment with us.