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Ankle fusion

Find out why you might need this ankle surgery and what to expect from your treatment

Person holding an ice pack on their painful foot may need ankle fusion surgery
Should you require an ankle fusion, you will undoubtedly want to ensure that you receive the very best treatment possible and a quick, full recovery. With our highly-experienced leading ankle surgeons, dedicated multidisciplinary healthcare team and state-of-the-art facilities, hospitals are the obvious choice for elective surgery.

Your feet and ankles play a prominent role in your support, balance and mobility. Should something interfere with their normal function it can have a significant impact on daily life.

Ankle fusion surgery may be recommended if you have been experiencing long-term, disabling ankle pain. The aim of this surgery is to reduce or remove this pain.

The two most common causes of severe ankle pain are:

  • Ankle arthritis: osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK , normally developing as a result of a previous injury or persistent inflammation in the ankle joint, such as caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • Significant ankle trauma: should the ankle joint surfaces be irreparably damaged by trauma, long-term ankle pain may be caused.

An ankle fusion, also known as ankle arthrodesis, may be advised if your pain is not expected to improve using other non-surgical methods such as physiotherapy or medication.

The aim of the surgery is to surgically remove the damaged joint surfaces and then to, as the name implies, fuse the ankle joint.

Prior to your operation, any X-rays or additional diagnostic scans will be thoroughly reviewed by the surgical team to help them plan the safest and most effective procedure for your operation. Led by one of our specialist consultant orthopaedic surgeons, the team will assess your health for surgery, talk you through the procedure and answer any questions you may have.

Once you are taken in for your surgery, you will be administered a general or spinal anaesthetic by one of our anaesthetists, who will monitor you throughout the entire procedure. The fusion is usually performed by a keyhole technique. Your surgeon will make two small incisions over the front of the ankle, allowing them to access the ankle joint.

Using specialised surgical instruments, they will remove the damaged joint surfaces (cartilage) and, once the surfaces of the joint are level, will align the bones in the optimal position for the fusion. Specialised metal screws are then inserted into the bones to keep them in the correct ‘fused’ position permanently.

X-rays are performed in the operating room to ensure these screws are secured in the correct position.

Ankle fusion is a commonly performed procedure and the clean and safe environment within hospitals are specifically designed to reduce the risk of any complications.

Following surgery, you will require a short stay in hospital, normally one night, to ensure there are no immediate complications and that any post-operative pain is adequately controlled before your discharge home.

The leg is placed in a below knee cast or boot for 12 weeks to ensure the bones have fused. It will take you some time to learn to walk without movement in the ankle, and during this time balance exercises and strengthening exercises to the muscles of the upper leg may help. Following your operation, you will be seen by our physiotherapy team who will help you as you adjust to your new ankle position.

It may take several weeks to several months for any swelling to settle in your lower leg and ankle after an ankle fusion, but any pain is usually well controlled. You will be reviewed by our orthopaedic team at regular intervals to ensure everything is healing correctly and that your recovery is going well.

If you do need ankle fusion surgery, you will find no better place to have it done than at our hospital.

With our state-of-the-art equipment, fast access to treatment and a medical team that includes some of the top ankle surgeons in the country, you can be assured that you’ll be in expert hands. You will also benefit from:

  • No waiting lists: we can get your ankle fusion carried out promptly, meaning you can look forward to less ankle pain more quickly.
  • treatment by a specialist consultant surgeon: with decades of shared experience treating ankle pain, our consultants include nationally recognized experts (in fact, they’re often asked for advice from other specialists).
  • our multidisciplinary team: our experienced and diverse team of healthcare professionals work together to achieve the best possible result for everyone we treat.
  • a dedicated physiotherapy team: as an ankle fusion permanently fixes the position of your ankle, prompt and effective physiotherapy can help you as you learn to move correctly and safely. Our physiotherapists will give you expert advice and one-on-one assistance to help you mobilise quickly and to get back on your feet safely.

If you are struggling with long-term ankle pain, why not talk to us about how we can help? Contact our friendly team today, who will be happy to book you an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon at a time of your choosing. You will be able to talk with an expert about your symptoms and to hear what they would advise.

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