An ankle joint fusion (sometimes referred to as an ankle arthrodesis) is performed to relieve pain and disability due to ankle joint damage, probably following age-related changes known as osteoarthritis. Some individuals undergo ankle fusion due to ankle fractures or rheumatological diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis which may have deteriorated their joint over time.

Phase oneThe first phase of your recovery will be focused on managing your pain, reducing lower leg, ankle and foot swelling and early general mobilisation to reduce any chances of DVT or infection. Your lower leg will be placed in a backslab plaster and you will be provided with a walking frame or elbow crutches and instructed to take no weight through your operated leg for at least two weeks after your surgery. In the meantime, your physiotherapist will educate you on how best to adapt movements and activities and provide some alternatives so you can return to independence as quickly as possible. It is advisable to elevate your lower leg regularly to help reduce swelling. With help from your physiotherapist, you will be taught how to safely ascend and descend stairs prior to being discharged from hospital, and supervised as you practice.

Phase twoThe first phase of active rehabilitation will commence once weight-bearing restrictions have been lifted. Your physiotherapist will supervise you taking appropriate weight through your operated ankle as you get used to walking without movement at this joint. As you start to walk with a more normal gait pattern, you will be encouraged to wean off the walking frame or elbow crutches to using sticks. Our physiotherapists will also design a specific rehabilitation regime to help you regain strength in your operated ankle. At this stage, many of the exercises will be non-weight bearing and exercises will be prescribed to target each of the ankle muscles: ankle plantarflexion muscles (which help to propel you forwards and upwards when walking), ankle dorsiflexor muscles (which pull your feet and toes up) and ankle invertor and evertor muscles (which stabilize your ankle from side to side).

Phase three - The third phase of your recovery will begin when you have recovered enough strength and balance in your operated leg to commence weight bearing exercises. As such, the exercises our physiotherapists prescribe during this phase will typically take in to consideration your normal activity levels, sports and hobbies and will aim to increase functional strength. Examples of exercises that may be prescribed are wall slides/squats or step-ups to increase your strength and balance when walking and climbing stairs.

The Game Ready Ice Machine, electric muscle stimulator, AlterG anti-gravity treadmill, Hydro Physio aqua-jogger, sports exercise equipment such as the Concept2 rower, plus Circle’s Return to Sport Assessment Service may help rehabilitation following an ankle fusion

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Circle Health Group, 1st Floor, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6XH