Arthrodesis of Foot and Ankle—Open Surgery
Arthrodesis fuses two bones that form a joint. The joint will not be able to move after this surgery is done. One or more joints may be done at the same time.
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Reasons for Procedure
This surgery is done on people with ankle or foot pain who are not helped by other methods. It may be done to ease pain from:
- Poorly-healed fractures
- Damaged cartilage
- Birth defects
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or a sore throat
- Poor alignment of the joint, causing pain or problems walking
- Failure of the joint to fuse
- Need for repeat surgery
- Nerve damage
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
- Chronic diseases, such as diabetes or obesity
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
- Images of your foot that may need to be taken before surgery
The doctor may give:
Description of the Procedure
One or more incisions will be made. Cartilage will be removed from the joint. Any repairs will be made. The bones will be connected using things like screws, plates, rods, or bone grafts. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples. It will be covered with a bandage.
Immediately After Procedure
Your leg will be raised to ease swelling. Pain medicine will also be given.
How Long Will It Take?
About 2 to 3 hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Pain and swelling are common in the first few days. Medicine and home care can manage pain.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is 2 to 4 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
You can also lower your chance of infection by:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
- Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
- Not letting others touch your incisions
It will take up to 4 months to heal. A cast or boot will be needed. Physical activity will be limited during recovery.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Pain that is not eased by medicine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Numbness, tingling, or changes in the color of the foot
- Bleeding or leaking from your incision(s)
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
University of Washington School of Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Department of Orthopaedics—The University of British Columbia
Arthritis of the foot and ankle: arthrodesis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00209. Updated December 2019. Accessed May 11, 2020.
Ankle arthrodesis. FootCareMD—American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society website. Available at: http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/treatments/Pages/Ankle-Arthrodesis.aspx. Updated 2018. Accessed May 11, 2020.
Deben SE, Pomeroy GC. Subtle cavus foot: diagnosis and management. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2014 Aug;22(8):512-520.
Pes cavus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pes-cavus. Accessed May 11, 2020.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 5/11/2020