Arthrodesis


Ankle fusion is also known as ankle arthrodesis and is a corrective measure to increase the mobility of the ankle. It may also decrease the amount of pain that is experienced. Arthritis is one cause of severe pain and immobility. It can relate back to an old injury that has caused the arthritis to set into the joint. Whatever the cause, fusion may be the best treatment for some conditions.

Conditions
You may find your condition among the list outlined here. Requiring ankle fusion can begin in childhood from a fracture of the lower part of the tibia (leg bone) or the talus (ankle bone). The joint can eventually deteriorate from osteoarthritis.

Cartilage deterioration can immobilize an ankle from moving freely. The constant friction of the joints moving against each other can cause the soft tissue known as the synovitis which is very painful.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition of the immune system that causes inflammation and eventual deformity in joints from bone deterioration. Ankles are affected as well causing instability and keeping mobility to a minimum.

Surgery

Orthopedic surgeons perform ankle fusions. During surgery the lower part of the tibia and fibula leg bones are shaved and smoothed during surgery. The upper part of the talus is also shaved and smoothed. The bones are cleaned with a saline solution, careful not to leave any bone fragments.

Fusions are accomplished with screws that secure bone between the joint.
External fixation places pins through the joint that are attached to an external plate. The plate is removed when fixation has been achieved.

Complications

Any anesthesia can be a risk, especially general. Vessel and nerve damage can take place causing permanent damage. It can leave the patient with less mobility then before surgery.

Infection can develop in the wound causing more surgery to drain the infection.

Union deficits can occur such as an imbalanced union of the joint or no union of the joint.
Both can result in more surgery to correct the problem.

Recovery

The average recovery time includes 12 weeks using an ankle brace. After the brace is removed physical therapy follows. To assist with weight bearing and comfort, your physician may decide to order a shoe device.

Tips
Search for an orthopedic surgeon that is qualified. Check credentials on the state medical board website.
Do not bear weight on the joint after surgery until instructed by the surgeon.
Report any inflammation of the wound immediately.
Contact the surgeon if the joint slips, is weak or misaligned after healing.

Mayo Clinic: Ankle Fusion Surgery
http://www.mayoclinic.org/ankle-surgery/anklefusion.html

The Foot and Ankle Clinic: Ankle Fusion
http://www.thefootandankleclinic.com/ankle-fusion.htm

Orthogate: Ankle Fusion
http://www.orthogate.org/patient-education/ankle/ankle-fusion.html

(c) 2014 Vickie Van Antwerp

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