Ankle Fusion Operation- aka Arthrodesis, arthroscope operation
What Is It?
The ankle fusion surgery is usually performed when a patient’s ankle joint has become worn and painful, which is a condition that is known as degenerative arthritis. When an ankle is fused, the surface of the ankle joint is removed in order to promote fusion between the ankle’s tibia and the ankle’s talus. It refers to the two bones growing and coming together. Ankle fusion is great for treating a patient whose ankle joint has become worn out, especially a patient who is active and young. A successful ankle fusion will last much longer than an ankle that is artificial. One thing that is important is that the fused ankle’s other foot joints are healthy and normal, because the ankle will not be able to move when the patient is walking or doing other things.
There is more than one method of fusing an ankle, but the most common method is using an arthrospoe.
This method uses an arthroscope. The arthroscope, containing a very small television camera, enters the ankle through a small incision. With the help of other instruments, cartilage is then removed and taken out through the incision while the arthroscope helps the surgeons to watch the procedure’s progress. When the surfaces are at last prepared, screws will be inserted in order to hold the bones together until they are healed.
Alternatives to Surgery
Pain management can be done with pain medication and anti-inflammatory medications. The doctor may also try helping the pain with injections to the joint. There are certain types of therapy that the doctor may suggest too before deciding to resort to surgery.
Before the Operation
Long before the surgery, the surgeon may suggest that the patient has a physical done by a family doctor. They are making sure that the patient’s health is good and that there aren’t any underlying medical conditions that could complicate things.
When the day of the surgery comes, the patient will more than likely need to arrive much earlier than their surgery is scheduled for. The patient should not have had anything to drink or eat after midnight.
After the Surgery - In the Hospital
For the most part, the patient is in the hospital from two to three days. The patient should expect a lot of swelling in the ankle that was fused and will need to keep their foot elevated. This will help to keep the swelling down. Once the swelling has reduced, the patient will be put in a cast that goes from the knee to the toes. The patient will be taught how to use crutches to walk so that they don’t put any weight on their foot.
After the Surgery - At Home
When the patient goes home, they should keep the injured ankle elevated so that it’s above the patient’s heart level for at least three days. This will help to avoid throbbing and swelling of the foot. Whenever the patient is sitting or sleeping, the foot should be propped up on a pillow stack.
Approximately two weeks after surgery, the cast on the patient’s ankle will be removed and replaced by a shorter cast. However, the patient will not be allowed to walk on the injured leg until the doctor is positive that the bones in the foot are fusing, which normally takes anywhere from eight to twelve weeks. Until that takes place, the patient will need to use crutches to get around.
Once passing the twelve week mark, the patient’s cast is going to be replaced by a brace on the ankle. Once the surgeon is certain that the fusion is strong and taking, the patient will be able to put more weight on their foot when they are walking. It may be that the patient is going to require the assistance of a therapist so that they are able to walk smoothly and not have a limp.
When the doctor is sure that the fusion is healed completely, the patient will get fitted with a few special modifications for their shoes. These will help the patient walk easier. Shoe inserts, known as SACH foot, are sometimes used to make the patient walk more easily and normally. The insert cushions the heel and compresses as the patient puts weight on it. This allows the foot to roll more naturally as the patient steps. Another modification that may be used is called a rocker sole. This sole allows the foot to roll as the patient takes a step. The patient will need to have X-rays to see how the bones are fusing and if there are any problems.
As with any type of surgery, there is the possibility of complications. Some of the complications that patients may experience with this surgery are:
injury to blood vessels
injury to nerves
bones not fusing together
bones healing in wrong positions
An ankle fusion is the right surgery for a lot of people who have pain in their ankle due to arthritis. Once the ankle is healed, it may take some getting used to, but since the pain is gone it will seem like it’s worth it. A properly done ankle fusion can last the patient a lifetime, and that is a lifetime without pain. If a patient has arthritis in their ankle, they should talk to their doctor about ankle fusion.
Estimated Costs for Ankle Fusion Surgery