Ankle fusion surgery can help relieve pain and correct joint defects
Ankle fusion, also called ankle arthrodesis, is a surgical option for arthritis in the ankle, usually the result of traumatic injury to the foot or ankle. Ankle fusion surgery may also be indicated for conditions such as infection and congenital ankle deformities. For relief from arthritic pain, it is only an option after less invasive therapies such as medication and physical rehabilitation have been tried.
How ankle fusion works
Ankle fusion involves removal of the cartilage between connecting bones of the ankle joint, so the bones touch each other. The surgeon then uses special screws to hold the ankle bones together. Once the ankle starts to heal, it naturally “fuses” with the surrounding bones. Because the bones are fused together, you no longer feel pain caused by movement.
On the flip side, ankle fusion surgery restricts mobility of the ankle. The ankle won’t be able to rotate as fully, and the surrounding bones and joints will have to do more work. Your surgeon will assess your age, health, and other lifestyle factors—as well as the ability of your surrounding bones to handle the additional stress—before prescribing ankle fusion surgery.
Ankle fusion is often preferred over ankle replacement, particularly in young, active people. Unlike ankle replacement, in which the replaced ankle may wear out over time, ankle fusion is a permanent, long-term solution.