What is ankle fusion?
Ankle fusion is surgery that helps to relieve pain and make your ankle more stable.
The doctor makes one or more cuts in the ankle to reach the ankle joint. These cuts are called incisions. The doctor uses a tool to remove the surface of the ankle joint. This prepares the joint for the next steps. Then the doctor uses screws or other hardware to align and hold the bones so they grow together (fuse). The incisions are closed with stitches or staples.
The surgery can also be done using arthroscopy. That's a way to do surgery inside a joint without making a large incision. Your doctor puts a lighted tube through small incisions in your ankle. The tube is called an arthroscope or scope. Next, the doctor puts some surgical tools in the scope to help make needed repairs. Then the doctor stitches the incisions closed. You will have scars, but they usually fade with time.
You will stay in the hospital for about 2 days after surgery.
In about 10 to 14 days, the doctor will take out the stitches.
You will go home wearing a cast or a walking boot. The doctor will tell you when you can start to put weight on your ankle. It most often takes at least 6 to 8 weeks. You may need physical therapy (rehab). You will need to use crutches, a walker, or a knee scooter during your recovery.
After surgery and rehab, you will probably have less pain and more strength and movement in your ankle.
How do you prepare for surgery?
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
Preparing for surgery
- You may need to shower or bathe with a special soap the night before and the morning of your surgery. The soap contains chlorhexidine. It reduces the amount of bacteria on your skin that could cause an infection after surgery.
- Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
- Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
- If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
- Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
- Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.
What happens on the day of surgery?
- Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
- Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
- Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
- Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
At the hospital or surgery center
- Bring a picture ID.
- The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
- You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
- The surgery will take about 1 to 1½ hours.
When should you call your doctor?
- You have questions or concerns.
- You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
- You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
- You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter M156 in the search box to learn more about "Ankle Fusion: Before Your Surgery".
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Davide Bardana MD, FRCSC - Orthopedic Surgery, Sports Medicine