Ankle fusion is a surgical procedure where the three bones that make up the ankle joint (the talus, the tibia, and the fibula) are held together with metal implants, allowing them to heal and grow into one bone. It is typically used to relieve pain in people who have a worn out ankle joint due to arthritis or a traumatic injury. It is also an option for people with a severe deformity such as a flat foot, high-arched foot, or a club foot in which the ankle joint is also deformed, unstable, or damaged.
Once fused, ankle pain is usually completely relieved or far improved when compared to before the procedure. However, ankle function may be somewhat limited, particularly going up and down stairs, walking on uneven ground, and stooping to pick up objects.
Understanding the procedure
The two most common ways to perform an ankle fusion are the more traditional open method and the minimally invasive arthroscopic approach. The open technique is done by making an incision or cut through the skin to open the joint. Once open, the joint surfaces (articular cartilage) are removed and, if necessary, reshaped to correct a deformity. The joint is then put in the correct position and held in place using metal screws, plates, or pins to allow the bones to fuse together. In some cases, bone-graft material from other parts of the body is used to help the ankle fuse properly.
Indications for the procedure
An ankle fusion is typically used when all conservative options to relieve pain have failed, such as corticosteroid injections, ankle foot brace, anti-inflammatory medications, custom orthotics, and ankle braces.