What is Arthrodesis?
Bone or joint fusion surgery, called arthrodesis, is performed to relieve arthritis pain in the ankles, wrists, fingers, thumbs, or spine.
In arthrodesis, two bones on each end of a joint are fused, eliminating the joint itself and making one continuous bone.
This surgery is typically quite successful. A very small percentage of patients have problems with wound healing. These problems can be addressed by bracing or additional surgery.
The biggest long-term problem with fusion is the development of arthritis at the joints adjacent to those fused. This occurs from increased stresses applied to the adjacent joints.
In arthrodesis treatment, the surgeon uses pins, plates, and screws, or rods, to hold the bones in the proper position while the joint(s) fuse. If the joints do not fuse (nonunion), this hardware may break.
A bone graft is sometimes needed if there is bone loss. The surgeon may use a graft (a piece of bone, taken from one of the lower leg bones or the wing of the pelvis) to replace the missing bone.
Foot and ankle surgery can be painful. Pain relievers in the hospital and for a time period after being released from the hospital may help. It is important to keep your foot elevated above the level of your heart for one to two weeks following surgery.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy for several months, to help you regain strength in your foot or ankle and to restore range of motion. Ordinary daily activities usually can be resumed in three to four months. You may need special shoes or braces.
In most cases, surgery relieves pain and makes it easier to perform daily activities. Full recovery time for arthrodesis takes four to nine months, depending on the severity of your condition before surgery, and the complexity of your procedure.