Regarded as a open secret within the medical profession, ankle arthrodesis/fusion is a complicated and controversial subject, and it can only be generously called as “making the best of a bad situation.” Whilst it happens to have the dubious honour of being one of the most commonly relied upon surgical options for dealing with arthritis of the ankle, this is more of a reflection of the lack of other remedies rather than some grand endorsement for the ankle fusion surgery itself.
What is it?
Ankle fusion surgery is a surgical operation whereby the damaged and now arthritic ankle bone, the talus will be removed entirely. An incision will be made into the hip of the patient, and a small segment of the bone from their hip will then be extracted. In effect then, the hip bone of the patient is then used to effectively “plug in” the various holes and pocks that are present in the ankle, in order to better facilitate the ultimate healing process, as well as providing a more stable platform for the bones to then sit on.
It should be noted that during the procedure, the remaining articular cartilage that does remain within the joint, will be shaved and removed entirely. This is to provide the two opposing bones as much of a blank canvas upon which they can grow as possible. However, the procedure will inflict arthritis on remaining joints in the foot.
How long will the recovery process be?
Ankle fusion is an extremely invasive and trauamatic form of surgical intervention and as a direct consequence then, the patient will have a very extensive period of recovery ahead of them. Specifically, the patient will be unable to weight bear for at least 12 weeks, although this is entirely contingent upon the patient not suffering any additional problems or complication such as an infection.
The total recovery time of the procedure is estimated to take up to a year, and in that time, the patient will be required to undergo a significant amount of very intensive physical therapy in order to ensure that they are able to retrain their body how to walk and adjust to their new gait more readily.
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