Ankle joint fusion (arthrodesis)

A surgical procedure to permanently join the ankle bones

If you have a painful ankle joint caused by osteoarthritis, fusion surgery can be a highly effective treatment option

What is ankle fusion?

Ankle fusion surgery is a procedure to relieve ankle pain caused by severe arthritis. It is typically considered when other treatment options have proved unsuccessful. 

During the surgery, two or more bones in the ankle are fastened together with metal plates and screws. As the bones heal they fuse together, which eliminates any joint motion. The patient is  left with a stiff, but pain-free, ankle joint.

Benefits of ankle fusion surgery

Ankle fusion surgery is particularly beneficial for younger and more active patients suffering from chronic arthritis. These benefits include:

  • Relief from pain
  • Improved stability from the fused joint
  • Increased ability to carry out weight-bearing activities
  • Increased ability to walk and carry out day-to-day activities
  • Fewer restrictions to activity during recovery (compared with replacement surgery)
  • Durability (compared with replacement surgery)


Need to know

  • What happens during ankle fusion surgery? icon plus

    During the procedure, your surgeon will make an incision to expose the bones and cartilage. 

    Next, they will remove any damaged cartilage, before roughing the surface of the bones. This will help them to fuse. 

    Your surgeon will then position the bones and hold them together using metal plates and screws, before closing the wound. 

    As the site heals, the damaged bones will fuse together.

    Fusion surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthetic, but it can also be performed with a local anaesthetic, such as an epidural. Your consultant will recommend the best approach for you.

    We use the latest cutting-edge techniques, including minimally invasive keyhole surgery. This minimises scars, improves wound-healing and helps promote a quicker recovery.  

  • How to prepare for ankle fusion surgery icon plus

    Before you have the surgery, your consultant will explain the procedure to you, and go through any possible risks and side effects. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have at this point.

    If you’re having a general anaesthetic, your consultant will let you know how long you should avoid eating and drinking before your operation.

    You’ll need to arrange for someone to help you get home once you have been discharged.

  • Ankle fusion recovery icon plus

    After surgery, you’ll need to remain in hospital for three to five days. 

    You’ll have a plaster cast on your ankle, which may have a drain in it for the first day or two. You'll need to wear a plaster cast or brace and use crutches for up to three months while your ankle heals. 

    Your consultant will let you know what to expect, including when you can get back to work and your usual routine. 

    They'll also talk you through how to care for your ankle while it heals, including physiotherapy or any other follow-up care you might need.

    Running can be difficult after an ankle fusion, but specialised shoes can help in some cases. Again, your specialist will be able to discuss this with you further. For most people, ankle fusion significantly improves their quality of life and helps them get back to the activities they enjoy.
  • Is ankle fusion surgery safe? icon plus

    While no surgery is completely risk-free, ankle fusion surgery is considered a safe procedure. 

    The limitation of ankle motion following the procedure will require adjustment and take some getting used to.

  • How painful is ankle fusion? icon plus

    During the surgery itself, you won't experience any pain, as you will be under anaesthetic (either general or local as advised by your consultant). 

    As with all surgical procedures, there may be some pain following the operation. However, this will be manageable with most standard pain-relief medication.

  • How long does ankle fusion surgery take? icon plus

    Ankle fusion surgery is a relatively quick procedure, and takes around two to three hours to perform. 

Our foot and ankle consultants

We're proud to work with leading orthopaedic experts specialising in problems and conditions of the foot and ankle, and whose skills are matched by their integrity and compassion.

Our locations

From complex ankle surgery to straightforward food procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Book a foot and ankle appointment

We're happy to help you make an appointment with one of our experienced foot and ankle consultants. We can also make imaging and outpatient physiotherapy appointments for you.

Call us today

020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
back to top