Fixing The Ankle With Arthrodesis

Joint fusion surgery, known as arthrodesis, is a procedure that fuses multiple bones in the ankle together to immobilize the joint and reduce pain. Arthrodesis is done to treat conditions such as ankle arthritis and joint fractures. Ankle surgery comes with benefits and limitations, and restrictions on exercise are necessary to ensure a smooth recovery.

What happens during the procedure?

The patient will first be put under using general anesthesia. Next, the surgeon will make incisions and remove cartilage at the ends of each ankle bone. The ankle bones are then brought together with the help of metal screws or plates. After fusion, the surgical site is sutured with stitches. The procedure is outpatient, meaning patients go home the same day.

Benefiting from ankle surgery

After an arthrodesis is performed, most patients report a better quality of life due to the benefits. Ankle fusion surgery provides a reduction in pain, better ambulation, and foot stability. A person will also have an improved ability to perform daily activities such as climbing the stairs. Weight-bearing activities can also improve after healing from an arthrodesis.

Adverse events of arthrodesis

Like most surgeries, there are some potential risks of ankle fusion surgery that some patients may experience. Infection, bleeding, scars, swelling, and damage to adjacent structures or vessels can occur. Arthrodesis can also cause a change in mobility, such as limping, leg length difference, and failure of bones to fuse. The chances of ankle bones unsuccessfully fusing are higher in patients with preexisting medical conditions. Following the doctor’s post-op instructions carefully can reduce the risk of complications.

Does arthrodesis limit my activities?

Recovery from arthrodesis takes about 6-12 weeks for most people, but limitations on certain activities may be in place even longer. Once the ankle bones are completely healed, the patient can resume activities such as walking, jogging, and cycling. However, some activities like running and jumping should be avoided for at least 6 months. A physical therapist can advise on the best time to return to exercise to minimize the risk of re-injuring the ankle.

Success rate

The outcome of arthrodesis differs for each person, but most cases are successful. About 90% of people having this type of ankle surgery report success, while about 10% of cases fail to fuse properly. If the bones fail to meld, the doctor may recommend a second ankle fusion surgery. Success depends on factors such as preexisting medical conditions and following the doctor’s instructions on taking precautions.

Expectations after arthrodesis

Following ankle surgery, many patients will experience a reduction in symptoms and will be able to lead a better life. Possible risks and limitations should be discussed with the healthcare provider so an informed decision can be made. A return to exercise is possible but can take some time.