Ankle fusion operation, also known as ankle arthrodesis, is a surgical procedure conducted to close the joint space by joining the bones that make up the ankle joint.
Your ankle joint is an articulation of three bones. These three bones are known as the tibia, fibula, and the talus. During ankle fusion operation, the cartilage covering the bony surface of the ankle joint is scraped off. The diseased part of the bones is also trimmed.
Next, the newly exposed bony surface of the tibia and the talus are placed in close contact. Additionally, they are compressed using screws. New bone formation takes place in and around the joint resulting infusion of the bones into a single bone.
Ankle fusion operation is recommended for patients experiencing unbearable pain during the ankle movement. The pain may result because of the following reasons:
Not all patients with the aforementioned conditions are always suitable for ankle fusion. Patients with the following characteristics are not suggested to undergo this surgery:
During the surgery, you are given either local anaesthesia or sedation to numb the entire ankle area. The doctor makes a small cut on the lateral side of the ankle through the skin so that the joint can be seen clearly. If more visibility is needed, the doctor makes an extra cut in the front of the ankle.
The doctor then uses a saw to remove the articular cartilage on the surface of the joint bones. The diseased bone is removed, exposing the healthy part of the bone. The healthy bone surfaces are compressed using large screws. The bones join naturally through deposition of bone material as is the case with natural fracture healing.
Sometimes, a doctor may place an artificial bone graft or a bone grafted from your fibula to ensure fast healing of the bony surfaces. Before placing the screws, the doctor carefully positions the ankle to ensure maximum movement possible. The ankle is placed at 90 degrees to the lower leg and the heel is slightly outwards. Then the skin is brought back in place and sutured together.
Ankle fusion recovery time depends on how seriously you take the following precautions after the surgery:
Arthroscopic ankle fusion surgery: This procedure is similar to the open ankle fusion surgery. However, the incision is very small and the entire procedure is carried out by inserting an instrument that has a camera attached to one end. It helps the doctor clearly view the interior cartilage and bones. Faster recovery and healing are the two advantages of this approach.
Ankle joint replacement: During this procedure, the entire ankle joint is replaced. The advantage of this technique over ankle fusion is that it retains complete movement of the ankle.
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