If you have severe arthritis in your ankle, an ankle arthrodesis should reduce your pain and allow you to do more of your normal activities.

What does the operation involve?

Your surgeon will remove the damaged joint surfaces. They will then fix the bones together with a metal plate, a metal rod, or screws.

The operation usually takes between an hour and an hour and a half. A variety of anaesthetic techniques is possible. You should be able to go home after one to three days.

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How soon will I recover?

To start with, you should spend most of the time with your leg raised on a chair or footstool. Most people need to have the plaster cast for about twelve weeks. You will need to use crutches or sticks until it is removed.

Once the plaster cast is removed, regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

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Are there any alternatives to Ankle Arthrodesis?

  • Simple painkillers such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen can help control the pain of arthritis. Supplements to your diet may also help relieve your symptoms. You should check with your doctor before you take supplements.
  • Using a walking stick can make walking easier.
  • A plastic splint or a stiff ankle boot with a cushioned heel is sometimes helpful.
  • A steroid injection into your ankle joint can sometimes reduce pain and stiffness.
  • Physiotherapy may help to strengthen weak muscles. 
  • A keyhole operation (arthroscopy) to clean out the ankle joint can give some relief for six to twelve months.

All these measures become less effective if your arthritis gets worse and some people with ankle arthritis may have an ankle replacement.

What complications can happen?

General complications
• Pain
• Bleeding
• Infection of the surgical site (wound)
• Unsightly scarring
• Blood clots
• Difficulty passing urine

Specific complications
• Damage to nerves
• Infection in the ankle
• Failure of the arthrodesis
• Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the foot and ankle (complex regional pain syndrome)
• Breakdown of the skin over your ankle. You may need a skin graft.

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This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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Mr Stephen Milner DM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)
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The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Systems International and is licensed by Horder Healthcare. The information should not replace the advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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