Ankle fusion is suitable for young or very active individuals with bad ankle damage. For those patients with severe arthritis or joint damage, ankle fusion can be a reliable solution for pain relief and improving function.
Ankle arthrodesis fuses the bones of the ankle joint completely, making one continuous bone. The surgeon uses pins, plates and screws, or rods to hold the bones in the proper position while the joint(s) fuse. A bone graft is sometimes needed if there is bone loss. The surgeon may use a graft (a piece of bone, taken from one of the lower leg bones or the wing of the pelvis) to replace the missing bone.
This surgery is typically quite successful. Most ankle fusions done at Emory are performed with arthroscopy and small incisions that are cosmetically pleasing. A very small percentage of patients have problems with wound healing. These problems can be addressed by bracing or additional surgery. The biggest long-term problem with fusion is the development of arthritis at the joints adjacent to those fused. This occurs from increased stresses applied to the adjacent joints.