Ankle joint fusion (arthrodesis)

If you have a painful ankle joint caused by osteoarthritis, fusion surgery to permanently join the ankle bones, can be a highly effective treatment option.

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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

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Ankle joint fusion (arthrodesis) Consultants

Mr Andrew Goldberg OBE

Mr Andrew Goldberg OBE

Orthopaedic Surgery

Mr Shelain Patel

Mr Shelain Patel

Orthopaedic Surgery

Mr Nicholas Cullen

Mr Nicholas Cullen

Orthopaedic Surgery

Mr Matthew J Welck

Mr Matthew J Welck

Orthopaedic Surgery

Our locations

Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH)

170 Tottenham Court Road W1T 7HA London
The Princess Grace Hospital

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place W1U 5NY London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.