Ankle arthrodesis, also known as ankle fusion, is a treatment that is designed to relieve pain associated with arthritis in the ankles. When the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones in the ankle deteriorates, it can be very painful. Ankle fusion works by fusing the ankle bones into one bone, thereby eliminating motion and reducing joint pain.
The procedure is performed under general anaesthetic. Dr Narramore will make several incisions in the ankle, through which he is able to access the joint. With the use of special surgical tools, he will carefully remove any cartilage that remains in the ankle joint to prepare the surface for fusion.
Dr Narramore will then use screws and plates to place the ankle into the correct position. These materials allow the bones to heal together and fuse into place. When the surface of the joint is removed, the tibia is able to fuse with the talus and in this way, the bones grow together.
In some cases, it is possible to perform ankle fusion arthroscopically. In this case, an arthroscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached to it, is inserted into a tiny incision in the ankle. The camera transmits images to a monitor, allowing Dr Narramore to see the inside of the joint. Tiny surgical tools can then be inserted into the incisions, with which Dr Narramore can complete the procedure. Arthroscopy generally allows for a quicker recovery period than traditional open surgery.
When the procedure is complete and the incisions are closed, you will be placed in a splint. You will be converted to a below knee light cast after one week. You will be in a below knee cast, non-weight bearing for 6 weeks and then partial weight-bearing in a boot for 6 weeks.
You will be required to have several follow-up consultations, in which Dr Narramore will take x-rays to check that the bones are fusing together. As the fusion grows stronger, you will be able to place more weight on your ankle.