You may have suffered a severe ankle fracture in a car accident or a high-velocity fall. As a result of the fracture, the ankle may have never healed correctly or may have developed arthritis. Ankle fusion may be recommended if:
- your pain is so great that you are not able to continue working
- you are having issues with taking painkillers for so long
- your quality of life has deteriorated
About Ankle Fusion
An ankle fusion removes the articular cartilage from the surface of the ankle joint which allows the tibia to fuse with the talus. The bones literally grow together. A successful ankle fusion does not wear out like an artificial ankle — it should last a lifetime.
Ankle fusion surgery can be arthroscopic or open. Open ankle fusion takes less time in surgery, but more time to heal. Arthroscopic surgery has a higher percentage of achieving fusion. Because the positioning of the bones is so critical to a successful fusion and your future comfort level, you need to have the surgery performed by a surgeon who has performed many ankle fusions.
Ankle Fusion Complications
There are many complications associated with ankle fusion, including:
- nerve damage (could result in numbness in the foot)
- blood vessel damage (could lead to the need for amputation)
- infection (could require further surgery to drain the infection)
- nonunion (could require another surgery to perform a bone graft or additional fixation)
- malunion (could cause problems with walking and require another surgery to achieve a better position of healing)
Ankle Fusion Recovery
After surgery, a padded plaster cast is required for 8-12 weeks. It is vital to refrain from putting any weight on the foot until x-rays show that the bones are fusing.
Physical therapy may be needed to learn to walk smoothly, without a limp. Once the fusion is completely healed, some shoe modifications may be helpful. There are shoe inserts or rocker soles available that allow the foot to roll more normally.
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