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What Is an Ankle Fusion, and Is it Right for Me?

What Is an Ankle Fusion, and Is it Right for Me?

Arthritis is a debilitating disease that can affect any joint in your body, but it’s especially bad when it affects your ankle joint. Conservative treatments for ankle arthritis may dampen the pain for a short time, but the pain often returns. If your arthritis is severe and nothing else has helped, an ankle fusion may be just what you need.

Our team at Phoenix Foot and Ankle Institute specializes in many different treatments for ankle pain. Our expert Foot and Ankle Surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey McAlister, helps you decide if an ankle fusion could help improve the arthritis in your ankle and get you back on your feet.

Understanding an ankle fusion

Your ankle joint bears much of your weight throughout the day, making it prone to degenerative changes and injury. Arthritis is common in your ankle for this reason. Ankle arthritis occurs when the protective layer of cartilage that surrounds the ends of your bones starts to deteriorate.

When your cartilage wears away, it allows your bones to rub against each other, leading to pain, inflammation, and eventually irreversible joint damage. There are many different conservative treatments out there to help ease your pain. But when those measures aren’t helping, Dr. McAlister recommends an ankle fusion.

An ankle fusion, also known as an ankle arthrodesis, is a surgical procedure that’s used when you have debilitating pain from severe arthritis that limits your mobility. During this procedure, Dr. McAlister removes the damaged cartilage and bone in your joint. 

After clearing out the damaged tissues, the doctor joins together two or more of your ankle bones to complete the fusion. This significantly decreases the motion of your joint, which helps with stability and arthritic pain, and is a small price to pay for pain relief. 

Ankle fusion surgery can be performed through a minimally invasively arthroscopy, or as an open procedure. The type of surgery depends on the severity of your condition and the ability of Dr. McAlister to gain appropriate access into your joint.

Are you a good candidate?

Now that you know what an ankle fusion is, how do you know if it’s the right surgery for you? The first consideration is your pain level. In order for an ankle fusion to work for you, your pain should be significant enough that it’s affecting your daily activities.

If Dr. McAlister determines your pain is being generated from degenerative arthritis in your joint, you may also be a good candidate for surgery. Other factors that aid in his decision include:

If you fall under any of these categories and have arthritis in your ankle joint, Dr. McAlister discusses the option of an ankle fusion to relieve your discomfort. However, like any other surgery, there are contraindications to this procedure. They include:

Certain medical conditions may put you at a higher risk of complications, so it’s important for Dr. McAlister to know all of your medical history before you decide on an ankle fusion. Surgery does come with risks as well, including:

Although these are risks, Dr. McAlister weighs these against the advantages of the surgery to decide if it’s the best treatment option for you.

As long as you understand the risks and you’re a good candidate for an ankle fusion, this surgery has the ability to rid you of your chronic pain and stabilize your ankle, helping to prevent further damage to your joint.

Don’t suffer from ankle pain any longer — call either of our convenient locations at 602-761-7819 to schedule a consultation with Dr. McAlister, or book an appointment online with us today.

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