Ankle Fusion (Arthrodesis)
Arthrodesis, commonly known as fusion, is a surgical procedure used to treat severe conditions of degenerative arthritis in the ankle. This procedure involves fusing the bones of the ankle together to manage pain and restore function to the joint. Ankle fusion was commonly used before joint replacement was available, and is still considered the ideal treatment for some patients.
This procedure may be performed arthroscopically or through a traditional open procedure. Arthroscopy offers patients many advantages over the traditional procedure, including smaller incisions, less bleeding and shorter recovery times. Arthroscopy involves the use of a long tube with a camera on the end that is inserted through a tiny incision into the ankle joint.
During the fusion procedure, small surgical instruments are inserted into similar incisions to remove the damaged cartilage surface and place screws to hold the bones together as they heal.
After the arthroscopic arthrodesis procedure, the ankle will be wrapped in a cast for two weeks. Patients should not put weight on the foot until the bones have fused, which can take between eight and 12 weeks. Special inserts worn in the shoe may help patients walk normally after this procedure and return to their regular activities.
As with all surgical procedures, there are certain risks associated with arthroscopic arthrodesis, including nerve injury, infection or nonunion of the bones. These risks are considered rare, and most patients achieve successful results from this procedure.