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Definition

Arthrodesis fuses the two bones that form a joint. The joint can no longer move after the procedure. One or more joints may be fused at the same time.

Arthrodesis of Foot and Ankle
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Reasons for Procedure

This surgery is done to ease ankle or foot pain when other methods have not helped. It may also be done to treat poorly healed fractures, arthritis , damaged cartilage, infections, or abnormal foot structures.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Failure of the joint to fuse
  • Poor alignment of the joint, causing pain or problems walking
  • The need for repeat surgery
  • Nerve damage

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery

Anesthesia

The doctor may give:

Description of the Procedure

A few small incisions will be made. A narrow tool called an arthroscope will be placed through one incision. The scope has a tiny camera to let the doctor view the area. Other small instruments will be inserted through the other incisions. These tools will be used to do the surgery. There are many ways to fuse the two bones together. Long screws or bone grafts may be used. The incisions will be closed with stitches and bandaged.

The doctor may need to switch to open surgery . A long incision will be made on your foot and ankle to do the surgery.

How Long Will It Take?

2 to 5 hours

Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common in the first few weeks. Medicine and home care can help.

Average Hospital Stay

You may be able to go home in 2 to 4 days. If you have problems, you may need to stay longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

At the care center, the staff may:

  • Give you pain medicine
  • Support the foot with a splint
  • Teach you how to use crutches

During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

You can also lower your chance of infection by:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your incisions
At Home

It will take up to 4 months to heal and fuse the joint(s). You will have a gradual return to normal activity levels. During that time, you will be in a cast or boot.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, more pain, a lot of bleeding, or leaking from the incision
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Skin that is cold, discolored, numb, or tingly
  • New or worsening symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES

American College of Sports Medicine  http://acsm.org 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons  http://orthoinfo.aaos.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association  http://www.coa-aco.org 

Public Health Agency of Canada  http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca 

References

Arthritis of the foot and ankle: arthrodesis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00209. Updated December 2019. Accessed July 16, 2020.

Ankle arthrodesis. FootCareMD—American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society website. Available at: http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/treatments/Pages/Ankle-Arthrodesis.aspx. Updated 2018. Accessed July 16, 2020.

Deben SE, Pomeroy GC. Subtle cavus foot: diagnosis and management. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2014 Aug;22(8):512-520.

Pes cavus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pes-cavus . Updated September 26, 2017. Accessed July 16, 2020.

Revision Information