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Ankle Fusion for Ankle Arthritis


Written by Dr Mike Smith

An Ankle Fusion may be required for severe ankle arthritis

Lets discuss what a ‘fusion’ procedure involves

The term ‘fusion’ relates to the joining of two bones, through removal of a joint. Fusions are commonly performed procedures throughout the body with the primary goal of eliminating pain from that region. Typically painful arthritic joints have restricted movement to begin with. A formal Fusion (Arthrodesis) eliminates any movement from that particular joint.

As is the case in the ankle region, adjacent joints are usually able to compensate and allow functional movement.


Ankle Arthritis – What fusion options are available

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Every individual case needs a through assessment and management plan. There are several techniques available for achieving a successful ankle fusion. Dr. Smith will discuss all options available and determine which technique you are most appropriate for.






Ankle Fusion

Arthroscopic Ankle Fusion

Keyhole portals are created at the front of the ankle joint. Utilising a tiny camera through one of the portals, specialised instruments are passed into the ankle joint to remove the cartilage of the ankle joint. Once sufficient cartilage has been removed, the lower end of the tibia is secured to the talus with the used of 2-3 compression screws.

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Anterior Ankle Fusion 

This technique involves making a midline incision over the front of the ankle joint. Once the joint is on view, the diseased cartilage is removed from the end of the tibia and talus. These bones are secured together with the combination of a locking plate and screw construct.

mike smith ankle arthritis management

Transfibular Ankle Fusion 

This technique is often reserved for patients with significant deformity secondary to their arthritis. An incision is created on the lateral (outer) aspect of the ankle joint. The lower end of the fibula is removed to gain access to the ankle joint. Ankle joint preparation and fixation is similar to above techniques.


Ankle Arthritis usually develops following a previous fracture or chronic ankle sprains



What you need to know

Regardless of which technique is used to achieve an ankle fusion, recovery times progress along a similar path. Patients are typically placed into a splint for the first 2 weeks, and then into a boot, once the wounds have healed. During the first 6 weeks, no weight is to be put through the foot. A set of crutches/ frame will be provided for this. From 6 weeks, progressive weight bearing is allowed, and the walking aids are removed completely at 12 weeks. Serial xrays are performed to ensure successful ‘union’ is achieved.

Once successful union has occur, normal activities can be recommenced.


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