Healthwise: Ankle Fusion

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

July 28, 2010

Every step can be agonizing for people with ankle arthritis. Dr. Timothy Zimmer, an orthopedic surgeon at Martha Jefferson Hospital, treats many people suffering from arthritis from ankle sprains or fractures with arthroscopic ankle fusion.

"The ankle fusion is an effort to take a joint that is very arthritic and change that, such that the two bones grow together a fusion like a break heals," said Dr. Zimmer.

The procedure is a minimally invasive outpatient surgery to fuse the bones, and when there is no longer motion between bones at the joint, there is not longer pain. First developed by surgeons in sports medicine, ankle fusion involves smaller incisions, less recovery times and less pain than other possible operations.

"A lot of patients have the misconception that after an ankle fusion it's like nailing two 2-by-4s together, but the reality is there is still up and down movement in the foot that occurs in joints forward of the ankle. The normal side to side movement that a patient has before surgery they keep," said Dr. Zimmer.

People who are candidates for arthroscopic ankle fusion suffer from ankle pain for a long time. Other methods like medication, braces or injection offer little relief.

"Most patients who become candidates have some type of injury. Ankle fractures are painful and the recovery is painful, it's not a lot of fun," said Dr. Zimmer.

Dr. Zimmer's experience allows him to offer the treatment, and the patients who have it, can step pain free.

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