When Is Fusion Surgery Appropriate for Foot Pain?

When Is Fusion Surgery Appropriate for Foot Pain?

When you have any type of joint-related condition, especially rheumatoid arthritis, you can experience excruciating foot pain that makes it difficult to move around and perform daily tasks. 

If this is the case for you, fusion surgery might be a good option. For many people, this treatment method is a welcome alternative to full joint replacement surgery, since you’ll still get pain relief but you won’t run the risk of wearing out a brand new joint. 

At the Foot and Ankle Institute of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Colorado, expert podiatrists Matthew Hinderland, DPM, Jordan Cameron, DPM, Trevor Whiting, DPMJoseph Fleck, DPM, and the rest of our team offer fusion surgery as a way to get relief from your rheumatoid arthritis. 

This month’s blog explores how rheumatoid arthritis affects your feet and how fusion surgery can come to your rescue. 

The effects of rheumatoid arthritis 

Arthritis is a term for over 100 different conditions that cause swelling and inflammation in your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, specifically, is an autoimmune condition, where your immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s own tissues. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, the lining of your joints starts to swell and eventually causes bone erosion and joint deformity. 

In its earliest stages, rheumatoid arthritis attacks the small joints in your hands and feet, but as it progresses, it moves on to larger joints like your ankles. As the condition progresses and deforms your joints, the bones can start to shift out of position and cause a lot of pain and issues with mobility. 

When is fusion surgery necessary?

When you have rheumatoid arthritis, we typically recommend starting with conservative treatments rather than jumping immediately to surgical options. First lines of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis include taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen; corticosteroid injections; and physical therapy. 

However, if these methods aren’t enough to slow down the progression of the disease, and your joints become severely damaged and deformed, fusion surgery can become an option for you. 

What to expect during fusion surgery 

Fusion surgery aims to treat rheumatoid arthritis by cleaning out the damaged joint lining and then fusing the bones together. The joints won’t be able to bend anymore, but the surgery should eliminate pain and provide stability, significantly improving your mobility. 

On the day of your surgery, our team numbs the area with local anesthetic and then provides general anesthesia to keep you comfortable for the duration of the procedure. 

Your provider then makes a few incisions around the affected joint to gain access for the removal of the damaged joint lining. Once all the joint damage is cleaned out, your provider welds the affected joints together with pins or screws. After they place the hardware, they suture the surgical site together.

Because the joints in your feet are fairly small, recovery time for this type of fusion surgery should be fairly quick, around three months. As you feel up to it in the weeks following your surgery, you can slowly incorporate your usual activities back into your daily routine. 

Is fusion surgery right for you?

To learn if you’d be a good candidate for fusion surgery or other rheumatoid arthritis treatments, schedule an appointment with the Foot and Ankle Institute of Colorado team by calling our office or booking online today.

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Our office will be closed on 3/14/24 for the anticipated large impact winter storm that is approaching.  We will still be available by phone at 719-488-4664 during business hours to help you.