Ankle fusion is a surgical technique to treatment for ankle arthritis. The surgery involves the removal of the worn out joint cartilage, proper positioning of the ankle and foot, and placement of screws, plates, rods, or pins to hold the position while the bone knits together into a solid painless structure.
The time taken by bones to fuse in a cast varies from six weeks to six months, depending on many factors. Most patients are required to stay in the hospital for a few days and then use crutches, walkers, or a wheelchair until x-rays show satisfactory healing. Approximately five to 10 percent of ankles fail to fuse, despite optimal treatment; these percentages are higher in smokers, diabetics, patients with nerve problems, and patients unable to limit walking or standing during the initial fusing period.
Once fused, the ankle usually is painless or far improved from the preoperative condition. In most patients, function is somewhat limited due fused ankle - especially going up and down slopes or stairs, walking on uneven ground, and stooping to pick up objects.
Patients who have severe ankle damage from arthritis or past injury may be candidates for ankle fusion. Patients usually have unrelenting ankle pain even after being treated with medications or other treatment options. When pain is so severe that it interferes with walking and usual daily activities, it's time to discuss the option of ankle fusion with an orthopedic surgeon.
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