Ankle Fusion Surgery – What Happens During The Surgery

Doctors resort to ankle fusion surgery to treat pain in the ankle joint if conservative or non surgical methods to relieve the pain fail.

The Finer Details About Ankle Fusion Surgery

The patient is initially tested to see if he can be a candidate for ankle fusion surgery or arthrodesis. Once he has been confirmed as a candidate, a few additional tests are run and then a date for the ankle fusion procedure is set.

Ankle Fusion Surgery Basics – Pre Surgery

On the day of the ankle fusion surgery, pre-ankle fusion, the patient is first taken to a pre-surgery workup where he is prepared for the ankle joint replacement procedure. The patient is first briefed about the different anesthetic options that the doctors can offer and he has a choice between a general anesthetic and a light anesthetic coupled with a regional block.

ankle fusion surgery
The patient will be asked to choose between anesthetics during ankle fusion surgery


A general anesthetic will make the patient completely unconscious for the duration of the procedure. A regional block however is similar to an epidural which is given during pregnancies. In this, the medication will make the patient numb from the waist down for the surgery and also for two to three days following the surgery. This is done so that the patient does not feel any pain and can move around normally after the surgery.

Ankle Fusion Surgery Basics – Level of Consciousness

As patients are semi conscious during the surgery when given light anesthetics, most people tend to get anxious about this state. This is because they will be aware of what is going on during the operation. At any point, a patient can reach out to the doctor and tell him about this problem. Doctors normally give the choice of level of consciousness entirely to their patients.

Once the patient has made his choice, the doctor either administers a drug so as to render the patient unconscious or adjusts the level of the patient’s consciousness as per his wish.

The Ankle Fusion Operation

In the operation, an incision is made to open the joint. Once this is done, the articular cartilage is removed from the surface and the bones are exposed. The shinbone or the Tibia and the Talus (large bone in the foot) are then fused together.

This is done with the help of pins, plates, screws and rods which are inserted through the bones to hold them together. These screws and pins are not removed unless they get infected or cause pain. Once the fusing is over, the doctor closes the patient. If there are no complications in the surgery, it does not take more than three to four hours.

Ankle Fusion Surgery Basics – Recovery

Once the surgery is done, the patient is sent to the recovery room to rest and recuperate. The patient may feel a bit groggy at first when waking up. If there is any pain in the ankle, the doctor will administer either another regional block or a painkiller depending on the level of pain.

Post Surgery and Discharge

The doctor will monitor a few more details about the ankle and if all is fine, the patient will be discharged immediately. The patient can opt to stay for a night or two after the ankle fusion surgery if he wants to in order to receive medical attention.

Patients are understandably informed to keep their physical activity minimal after the procedure is done during ankle surgery recovery and rehabilitation. Too much stress can bring about ankle pain at a later point.

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