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Leeds Hospital

2 Leighton Street, Leeds, LS1 3EB

01133 882 067 0113 388 2187 (fax)
General Enquiries 0113 388 2067

When conservative methods for relieving ankle pain caused by degenerative arthritis or trauma are no longer working for you, your surgeon may recommend ankle fusion.

What happens during ankle fusion?

Ankle fusion is usually performed under general anaesthesic. Through an incision (cut) your surgeon will remove any damaged cartilage and expose healthy bone surfaces in your ankle joint. They will position the bones correctly and compress them together using metal screws. This positioning and compression encourages the bones to grow together. You will not feel the screws and they do not need to be removed. 

Sometimes ankle fusion can be performed using arthroscopic (key hole) surgery. Be sure and discuss what method will be used with your surgeon.

After your ankle fusion

You will need to stay in hospital for 3-5 days. You will have a plaster cast on your ankle and you may have a drain in your wound for one or two days. Please let our Healthcare Team know if you are in any pain. 

You should not put your weight on your fused ankle for 6 - 12 weeks following surgery. Our physiotherapists will visit you to teach you how to move around with a walker or crutches. They will work with you to ensure you are moving about on your own before you are discharged.

Going home after ankle fusion

Your ankle needs to be fully fused before you can drive. Please arrange for someone to take you home and look in on you in the first few days. You should rest and keep your leg elevated to control swelling. After 10 -14 days you will need to come back to have your stitches removed. You may be given a lighter weight cast. 

Be sure and take any pain medications as directed. 

Your surgeon may schedule regular x-rays to assess the extent of fusion. As the fusion gets stronger you may be allowed to start putting weight on your foot. You might need to work with a physiotherapist to learn to walk without a limp. 

You should plan on 10 to 12 weeks of recovery before returning to normal activities. Be sure and discuss any return to work with your surgeon. Once fusion is complete you may be given special shoe inserts or have your shoes fitted with rocker soles. 

Most patients make a good recovery from ankle fusion. Although you may not be able to run with a fused ankle you should be able to walk with a normal gait.

Any surgical procedure can result in complications:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots (Deep Vein Thombosis - DVT)

Specific complications of ankle fusion:

  • Nerve damage
  • Nonunion (lack of fusion)
  • Malunion (displaced healing)

Why not print this treatment page so you can discuss any concerns you have with your surgeon?