Ricker Polsdorfer, MD
Arthrodesis fuses the 2 bones that form a joint. There is no longer movement in the joint after the procedure. One or more related joints may be done at the same time.
Ankle and foot arthrodesis is done to relieve disabling ankle or foot pain, or deformity caused by poorly healed fractures,
arthritis, damaged cartilage, infections, or developmental defects.
The procedure results in pain relief in most patients.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have an arthrodesis, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
Several nonsurgical methods will be tried to correct your problem before choosing surgery. These may include medications, injections, special shoes, or types of physical therapy. You will have a thorough evaluation to determine your overall health and any risk factors.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to 1 week before the procedure.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery unless told otherwise by your doctor.
Arrange for help at home after returning from the hospital.
Your doctor may choose:
Arthroscopic surgery uses tiny incisions. A thin arthroscope will be inserted through 1 of the incisions. It will have a tiny camera that will be attached to a television. Other thin instruments will be inserted into the joint through the tiny incisions to perform the surgery. There are many ways to secure the 2 bones together so that they no longer move in relation to one another. Long screws or bone grafts may be used.
You will have a tight bandage strapped around your thigh to shut off circulation during surgery. This will not harm your leg.
In some cases, the doctor may need to switch to
open surgery. A long incision will be made on your foot and ankle to do the surgery.
Your lower leg will be in a rigid cast and elevated after surgery. You will be offered pain medication.
About 2-5 hours
There will be no pain during the procedure. Afterwards, there will be some discomfort. Talk to your doctor about medication to help manage discomfort.
You may be able to go home in 2-4 days if you do not have any complications.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
It will take up to 4 months to heal and solidly fuse the joint(s). During that time, you will be in a cast.
Some people may be able to wear ordinary shoes while others may need specially fitted footwear.
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
University of Washington School of Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Department of Orthopaedics—The University of British Columbia
Arthritis of the foot and ankle: arthrodesis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00209. Updated March 2015. Accessed February 11, 2016.
Daniels TR. Ankle arthrodesis. Canadian Orthopaedic Association website. Available at:
http://www.coa-aco.org/library/clinical-topics/ankle-arthrodesis.html. Accessed February 11, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
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