Ankle Fusion: Before Your Surgery

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What is ankle fusion?

Ankle fusion is surgery that helps to relieve pain and make your ankle more stable.

The doctor makes one or more cuts in the ankle to reach the ankle joint. These cuts are called incisions. The doctor uses a tool to remove the surface of the ankle joint. This prepares the joint for the next steps. Then the doctor uses screws or other hardware to align and hold the bones until they grow together (fuse). The incisions are closed with stitches or staples.

The surgery can also be done using arthroscopy. That's a way to do surgery inside a joint without making a large incision. Your doctor puts a lighted tube through small incisions in your ankle. The tube is called an arthroscope or scope. Next, the doctor puts some surgical tools in the scope to help make needed repairs. Then he or she stitches the incisions closed. You will have scars, but they usually fade with time.

You will stay in the hospital for about 2 days after surgery.

In about 10 to 14 days, the doctor will take out the stitches.

You will go home wearing a cast or a walking boot. The doctor will tell you when you can start to put weight on your ankle. It most often takes at least 6 to 8 weeks. You may need physiotherapy (rehab). You will need to use crutches or a walker during your recovery.

After surgery and rehab, you will probably have less pain and more strength and movement in your ankle.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take about 1 to 1½ hours.

Going home

  • Your foot and ankle will be in a cast or a walking boot to limit your movement.
  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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