Ankle fusion (arthrodesis)

What is an ankle fusion?

An ankle fusion is a permanent joining together of the main bones of the ankle joint.  The two main bones which require to be joined for an ankle fusion are the tibia and the talus.  Depending upon the technique, occasionally the fibula is also included into the fusion site.

How long does it take for an ankle to fuse?

The time to fusion can vary considerably between different conditions, different operative techniques and different patient related factors.  Generally, under the optimum circumstances an ankle should be well on the way to uniting by six weeks and be united by 12-14 weeks.  Just as after a fracture, the bone will continue to strengthen beyond this time.

How will I walk after an ankle fusion?

After an ankle fusion it is likely that a patient’s gait will be normal or much improved.  This is possible because there are other joints close to the ankle which, if non-arthritic and mobile will compensate to an extent for the loss of ankle movement.

What will I be able to do after an ankle fusion?

You are likely to be able to return to most activities following isolated ankle fusion, assuming the neighbouring joints are arthritis free.  This would certainly include returning to heavy manual duties, being able to walk distance and the use of ladders.  You would generally be able to break into a short light jog but the ability to run following an ankle fusion is unusual though not unheard of.

Why consider an ankle replacement?

The benefit is that the joints which have taken over the ankle function do so at their own expense, often suffering degenerative change themselves eventually.  There is a probability that between ten and twenty years following an ankle fusion the main joint beneath the ankle (sub-talar joint) will become arthritic.  It is however unusual for this joint to require secondary surgery as a result of the ankle fusion.


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