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What is ankle fusion surgery?

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Ankle fusion surgery is a medical procedure that removes the damaged cartilage from both the tibia and talus so that these bones are joinable and held together with the aid of metal hardware, as explained by the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Surgeons perform ankle fusion, or ankle arthrodesis, when a patient has degenerative arthritis of the ankle that does not respond to conservative non-surgical methods.

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Ankle arthritis causes deterioration of the ankle joint, leading to pain, stiffness and restricted movement in the affected ankle. Conservative treatment options to relieve these symptoms of ankle arthritis are steroid injections, pain relief medications, braces and special shoes, as noted by the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.

Open surgery and arthroscopic surgery are two methods doctors use for ankle fusion surgery, according to Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. In an open surgical procedure, doctors make incisions either at the inside or front region of the ankle to locate the joint. After the removal of any damaged cartilage, the surgeon aligns the tibia and talus bones into the proper position. Before proceeding to use the metal hardware for the fusion, X-rays are necessary to ensure the ankle bones are positioned correctly before placing the metal screws and plates. Sutures or staples are used to seal the incision.

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