What is Ankle Fusion?

Ankle fusion is stiffening of the ankle joint. The bones of the ankle joint consist of the lower end of the leg bones (tibia and fibula) and the ankle bone (talus). Any remaining cartilage is removed from the joint surface of the bones. The bones are then held with screws until they knit together. The procedure can be done either by an open operation or arthroscopically (key hole) depending on the specific case. Ankle fusion eliminates pain from the ankle at the expense of any remaining movement.

When is it Recommended?

Ankle fusion, in general, is recommended for painful ankle arthritis which has failed non-surgical treatment.

What is Involved?

You may need to temporarily stop certain blood thinning or diabetic medications prior to surgery. You will be informed of this but if you are unsure of your requirements please ask.

The procedure is done under a general or regional anaesthetic. You will leave theatre in a backslab cast. You will remain in hospital for a minimum of 2 nights with your leg elevated. Following this you will mobilise non-weight bearing. Our physiotherapist will assist you with this and help decide which aids are required. When you are safe mobilising and are able to manage you may go home. 

How Long is the Recovery?

You will be seen by Dr Freihaut 2 weeks following surgery and, if your wound has healed, be placed in a cast by the physiotherapists. You will be reviewed with an X-ray every 6 weeks and gradually progress to a walking cast or CAM boot. Your weight bearing status increases as your healing progresses.

Speed of recovery depends on how long it takes for your body to knit the bones together. You cannot walk normally until this happens which can take between 3 and 6 months. 

Is Physiotherapy Required?

You will see a physiotherapist whenever a cast or boot change is required. Exercise for the ankle is not required as it will be immobilised. Once fusion is complete you may chose to see a physiotherapist for general rehab and fitness but this is not mandatory.

What are the Risks?

Risks of ankle fusion include but are not limited to infection, blood clots, injury to nerves and blood vessels, wound breakdown, and fusion not uniting.