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Arthrodesis of Foot and Ankle -- Open Surgery

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by Polsdorfer R

Reasons for Procedure

The procedure results in pain relief in most patients.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Several nonsurgical treatments will be tried to correct the problem before choosing surgery. These may include medicines, injections, special shoes, or types of physical therapy. You will have a thorough evaluation to determine your overall health and any risk factors.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
  • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Blood thinners
  • Antiplatelet drugs
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
Arrange for help at home after returning from the hospital.


Your doctor may choose:

Description of the Procedure

The doctor will make a long incision to view the joint. The joint will be secured. There are many ways to secure the two bones together so that they no longer move in relation to one another. Long screws, screws and steel plates, long steel rods, or bone grafts have all been used.
You will have a tight bandage strapped around your thigh to shut off circulation during surgery. This will not harm your leg.

Immediately After Procedure

Your lower leg will be in a rigid cast and be elevated after surgery. You will be offered pain medicine.

How Long Will It Take?

About 2-3 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

There will be no pain during the procedure. Afterwards, there will be some discomfort. Talk to your doctor about medicine to help manage discomfort.

Average Hospital Stay

You may be able to go home in 2-4 days if you do not have any complications.

Postoperative Care

During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
  • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
  • Not allowing others to touch your incisions
It will take up to four months to heal and solidly fuse the joint(s). During that time, you will be in a cast.
Some people may be able to wear ordinary shoes while others may need specially fitted footwear.


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

University of Washington School of Medicine



Canadian Orthopaedic Association

Department of Orthopaedics
The University of British Columbia



Arthritis of the foot and ankle: arthrodesis. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Updated September 2008. Accessed April 4, 2013.

Daniels TR. Ankle arthrodesis. Canadian Orthopaedic Association website. Available at: Accessed April 4, 2013.

Foot pain—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 31, 2011. Accessed April 4, 2013.


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