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What You Can Expect From Ankle Fusion? | Port Orange Injury Lawyer

What You Can Expect From Ankle Fusion?

An ankle fusion is a surgical procedure that is usually done when an ankle joint becomes worn out and painful, a condition called degenerative arthritis. Ankle fusion is sometimes called ankle arthrodesis.

Probably the most common cause of degenerative arthritis of the ankle is an ankle fracture, which often occurs when someone is seriously injured in a car accident.

For the ankle, a fusion is a very good operation for treating a worn-out joint, according to This is especially true if the patient is young and very active. An ankle fusion, if successful, is not in danger of wearing out like an artificial ankle. An ankle fusion should last the patient a lifetime.


Several different operations have been developed to perform an ankle fusion. The basic procedure in each operation remains the same, however. The most common way that an ankle fusion is done is by making an incision through the skin to open the joint. Once the joint is opened, the surgeon uses a surgical saw to remove the articular cartilage surfaces of the ankle joint. Once the articular cartilage is removed on both sides of the joint, the body will try to heal the two surfaces together just as if it were fractured or broken. Once the cuts are made the bones must be held in place while they fuse. This can be done using large metal screws and metal plates if necessary. The screws are usually under the skin and are not removed unless they begin to rub and cause pain.

Some surgeons have performed ankle fusions with the help of an arthroscope. The arthroscope is a miniature TV camera that is inserted into the ankle joint through a small incision. Using the arthroscope to watch, other instruments are inserted into the ankle joint to
remove the cartilage surface. The cartilage surface is removed using a small rotary cutting tool. Once the surfaces are prepared, screws are placed through small incisions in the skin to hold the bones together as they heal, or fuse. This procedure is not significantly different
from the open procedure except that the incisions are smaller.


As with all major surgical procedures, complications can occur. Some of the most common complications following ankle fusion are:


Problems can arise when the anesthesia given during surgery causes a reaction with other drugs the patient is taking. In rare cases, a patient may have problems with the anesthesia itself. Be sure to discuss the risks and your concerns with your anesthesiologist.

Nerve or Blood Vessel Injury

During surgery, it is possible that either the nerves of the foot or the blood vessels around the ankle can be injured. This may result in numbness in the foot if the nerves are injured. Severe injuries of the blood vessels of the foot could lead to the need for an amputation.


Following surgery, it is possible that the surgical incision can become infected. This will require antibiotics and possibly another surgical procedure to drain the infection.


Sometimes the bones do not fuse as planned. This is called a nonunion, or pseudarthrosis. (The term pseudarthrosis means false joint.) This condition requires another operation to add bone graft and perhaps additional fixation.


Another possible complication is that the bones may heal in the wrong position. This is called a malunion. If the malunion is too extreme and causes problems with walking, another operation may be required to try to achieve a better position of healing.


After surgery, your ankle will be wrapped in a padded plaster cast. This will be removed after two weeks and replaced with a short-leg cast. You will not be permitted to put weight down on your foot until it is certain the bones are fusing. This usually takes between eight
and 12 weeks.

An ankle brace will replace the cast after eight to 12 weeks. Your surgeon will take x-rays frequently to see if the bones are fusing together. You will probably need to use crutches for most of the time you wear the cast. As the fusion grows stronger, you will begin to put
more weight on your foot when walking. You may need the help of a physical therapist to learn to walk smoothly and without a limp.


Once the fusion has completely healed, you will be fitted with several special shoe modifications to make walking easier. An insert in the shoe called a SACH foot is sometimes useful to help you walk more normally. This heel cushion compresses as you put your weight on the foot and allows the foot to roll more normally as you step. Another useful modification of the shoe is a rocker sole. Unlike a typical flat shoe sole, the rocker sole is rounded, allowing your foot to roll as you move through a step.

While you won’t be able to run normally after an ankle fusion, a successful operation should result in a nearly natural walking gait.

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