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The Benefits Of Joint Fusion And Arthrodesis
Often used as a treatment for arthritis pain, arthrodesis is the stabilizing of a joint through the fusion of adjacent bones. Candidates include individuals with previous joint-related injuries and elderly suffering from arthritis. Arthrodesis of the ankle will fuse the lower joint of the three principal bones. Though ankle movement will be limited, stability should increase, and pain should decrease.
What is joint fusion surgery?
Also known as arthrodesis, joint fusion surgery is used to weld separate bones together to make one solid bone. The surgeon may take a small piece of bone from another area of the body to place between the two ends of the joint. The joint will be fused with metal plates, screws, or wires. The procedure will make the joint more stable and decrease pain. Strengthening the joint will allow the patient to place more weight on the affected area, allowing for better mobility.
The recovery period can last up to 12 weeks. Over time the bones of the joint will grow together and become one solid bone. During the healing process, the patient will be asked to wear a brace or cast to protect the area. A decrease in the range of motion for the affected area is to be expected post-surgery. Physical therapy will be needed to help the surrounding muscles and joints to adapt.
When is the surgery needed?
Individuals with arthritis and other degenerative diseases are candidates for joint fusion surgery. Weakened joints can be painful and severely limit mobility. Joint fusion is mostly performed on the ankles, spine, wrists, and feet. Not only will the procedure alleviate pain, but restricting the movement of the joint can make an individual more mobile. When the joint is fused, the joint often becomes stronger, allowing for more weight-bearing activities. Not everyone is a candidate for joint fusion surgery. Poor bone quality and narrowed arteries can make the operation more risky or impossible. Infections and neurological problems can delay or prevent healing.
Arthrodesis and arthritis
Arthrodesis is the immobilization of a joint. Adjacent bones are fused to alleviate pain and create a single bone. Fractures and arthritis are the most common causes of joint pain. Osteoarthritis develops over time and is often an age-related condition. When patients have the condition, the cartilage between the joints begins to breakdown. Symptoms of arthritis include swelling, redness, reduced range of motion, inflammation, and pain.
How common is ankle arthritis?
The ankle is the least likely area of the body to be affected by arthritis. The most common cause of arthritis in the ankle is deterioration due to a previous injury. When the cartilage becomes damaged, the joints can become weakened and overworked. The infection of a joint can also lead to the development of arthritis. Obese individuals are more likely to develop arthritis in weight-bearing joints such as the hips and ankles. Arthritis in the ankle can press on the surrounding nerves leading to numbness in the feet and toes. If non-surgical techniques such as cortisone injections, pain medication, and physical therapy do not work, bone fusion may be recommended.
During the surgery
During the surgery, the tibia, fibula, and talus bones are fused at the ankle joint. The fusion increases ankle stability and decreases pain caused by arthritis. The downside of ankle arthrodesis is the fusion limits ankle flexibility and can place more strain on the surrounding joints of the foot and knee. The increased stress can make the adjacent joints more prone to osteoarthritis.
Proceeding with surgery
Surgery is typically reserved for when all other treatment methods have not worked. Fusing the bones of the ankle alleviates arthritis pain and often improves the life of the individual. Fusing the ankle bones can make the ankle stronger and give the patient back mobility. Patients can speak with a surgeon or podiatrist to learn more about treatment options.