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Foot or Ankle Fusion

Foot and ankle surgery is a specialised area of surgery. The surgery can be quite challenging and every patient has unique needs and goals.

Fusion is a surgical technique which can be used for most joints in the foot and ankle where a joint becomes worn out and painful—a condition called degenerative arthritis. This operation is undertaken to create a permanent joining of the bones. The damaged cartilage is removed to create a level bone surface. The next step is to position the bones correctly for the fusion.

Metal screws are used to hold the bones in the correct position. With the correct positioning, the patient will not feel the screws and there is no need for them to be removed in the future.


What things do I need to do to be ready for surgery?

You will have received instructions from your doctor and the pre-admission clinic. The Clinical Nurse Consultant will call you three days from before your surgery to ensure you are on track with your preparations for surgery. Please follow those instructions and complete ‘My checklist to be ready for surgery’. 

Having your home prepared before you have your operation will make things easier when you return home after your operation.

If it is assessed during the pre-admission assessment a referral will be sent to Mater at Home and an occupational therapist may be asked to organise a time with you to review your home set-up. They will review the following:

  • bed height
  • chair height
  • walkways (to be clear of furniture, loose mats or rugs, cords or leads)
  • shower, bath and toilet access and safety
  • kitchen layout (re-arranging kitchen cupboards may be necessary to avoid bending).

Preparing meals in advance and freezing them, or buying frozen dinners will help make meal preparation easier when you return home. You will need to organise family, friends or neighbours to help with the housework, shopping, driving or providing light assistance with showering, dressing and putting on and taking off the stockings required to be worn for six weeks after your operation.


What can I expect after my operation?

Operation and recovery - Your operation will usually take between one to two hours. You will then remain in the recovery area until you are awake enough to return to the ward. This may
take up to three hours.

Lines and drains - When you return to your ward you may still need oxygen. You will also have IV lines for fluid and pain medication, one to two wound drains. These will be removed gradually from Day 1 following your surgery. Your operated foot may be in a plaster and will be
placed in a raised position to help reduce swelling. 

Diet - If you eat and drink normally straight after your operation it may cause you to feel sick.
Eating and drinking small amounts slowly will help to prevent this. You should be eating and drinking normally by Day 1 following your operation.

Pain - It is normal to have some pain and discomfort after your surgery. However, it is important that your pain is controlled so you are able to cough, breathe deeply and do your exercises. Please let someone know about your pain so it can be treated and managed.

Infection control - Every effort will be made to prevent infection at your surgical site. Hand hygiene is essential when recovering from this surgery. Please wash your hands regularly.
Your doctor may order antibiotics to also help prevent infections.

Blood clot prevention - To help prevent blood clots forming in your legs (thromboembolism) your doctor may request that you wear a pair of white compression stockings as well as compression pumps after your surgery on your non-operated leg. If your doctor has ordered stockings they can be removed for your shower and put back on afterwards. You will need to wear the stockings for six weeks after your operation. Non-slip socks will also be provided. You can wear these or appropriate footwear over your stockings.

Mobilising and exercising - Your physiotherapy will begin on the day of your operation. Your physiotherapist will help teach you to learn to walk with a mobility aid without putting any
weight on your operated foot.

Wound management - Keeping your operated leg elevated will help reduce swelling, encourage healing and discourage wound breakdown. It is also important to continue with pain control.

Bowels - Bowel function can be affected by surgery and medication. To help your bowels return to normal function you may require bowel medication. Increasing your water intake and eating food high in fibre will also help your bowel function to return to normal. Include prunes and pear juice in your diet.

Going home - Depending on your recovery, it is anticipated you will be discharged from Day 2 after your surgery. We aim for discharge from the ward to be 10 am. You should have already organised your own transport home, help with meals, driving, domestic tasks, shopping and
getting your compression stockings on. Make sure the people helping you are aware of your discharge.


What complications could occur?

Serious problems from ankle and foot surgeries are not common but can happen.

  • Reactions to the anaesthetic drugs can occur.
  • There may be injuries to blood vessels or nerves during surgery.
  • An infection may develop around the surgery site.
  • The bones that are to be fused may not unite.
  • Movement may occur and the bones may heal in the wrong position.

What will it be like down the track —getting back into life!

During the first week at home it is important to keep your activity at a minimum and allow time for healing. Make sure you keep your operated limb elevated to help reduce the wound welling and continue with pain control as required.
After three months you should be back to most of your usual activities. Make the most of these improvements by getting back to activities you enjoy.
Having prepared yourself well and participated actively in your treatment, you will be able to return quickly to a more active independent lifestyle.



Staff of Mater Hospital Brisbane.
Allied Health and Mater at Home.

For more information about Mater Hospital Brisbane—South Brisbane, please call Reception on 07 3163 8111.


Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-420017
Last modified 23/1/2018.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 11/8/2015
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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