Anterior ankle fusion is an open surgical procedure that fuses, or joins, the anklebones together.
The ankle is the joint that connects the leg and the foot.
The ankle joint includes the two lower leg bones, called the tibia and the fibula, and the anklebone, called the talus.
Together, the ends of the tibia and fibula create a mortise, or slot, for the talus, which forms the bottom of the ankle joint.
Tissues, called ligaments and tendons, support the anklebones.
Ligaments attach bones to bones.
And tendons attach muscles to bones.
The ankle joint allows the foot to move up and down.
Articular cartilage on the ends of the bones is a smooth, gliding covering that allows fluid joint movement.
Ankle fusion, also known as arthrodesis, is a surgical procedure that joins the anklebones together so they no longer move or rub against each other.
Doctors may recommend this procedure for conditions that lead to severe ankle joint damage and pain.
The most common condition is osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease.
In the late stage of osteoarthritis, cartilage covering the ends of the bones has worn away, exposing bare bone.
This, along with the growth of bony projections, called bone spurs, causes swelling, pain, and limited movement of the joints.
Another condition that may require ankle fusion is rheumatoid arthritis, where the patient’s own immune system attacks the joints.
Any condition that destroys the joint surface, such as a severe bone infection or death of bone tissue, called osteonecrosis, may also require fusion of the ankle joint.,
The procedure will begin with an incision on the front, or anterior, part of the ankle.
Next, the surgeon will open up the ankle to see inside the joint space between the tibia and talus bones.
Damaged cartilage and bone will be removed from the bottom surface of the tibia.
This will also be done to the top surface of the talus.
Then, the surgeon will attach the bones to each other with screws or a with a metal plate and screws.
Bone tissue may be taken from an area such as the patient’s pelvic bone, or upper tibia, or it may come from a bone bank.
This will be used as bone graft to fill the joint space and help the bones grow together.
Finally, the skin incision will be closed with stitches.
After ankle fusion, the patient will no longer be able to move the ankle joint.
However, fusion removes the pain caused by arthritic surfaces rubbing together, and other joints in the foot continue to allow limited movement.