ask: Living with an ankle fusion and subtalar fusion--Any advice?

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In January of 2009, I fell from a ladder and suffered a catastrophic open-bone fracture of my talus. Not only was the talus shattered, but I immediately developed a serious infection and subsequent deep wound. 9 surgeries, 8 months of IV antibiotics, 9 months on a VAC device, and 15 months of walking in a boot, later . . . I am now looking at life following a complete ankle and subtalar fusion (no part of my ankle moves--except my toes). I am overjoyed that my fusion surgery was successful and am looking forward to learning how to walk again! I was just given the go-ahead from my doctor to begin using MBT shoes and to start physical therapy. I am just wondering if others have walked this road before and have any advice or insight. Thanks so much. Anneh8sldrs (Anne hates ladders)

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EmpowHER Guest

Hi my name is Tiago, I'm 23 I've had a major road traffic accident, broke my leg wich later made my ankle go trough a fusion due to an infection. I've had the surgery on the 4 of April, I'm still using the boot and crutches.. After a while it hurts if I try to walk.. My next doctor appointment is 10th September. I would just like to now any kinds of information.. Also I'm eager to start working. This time will be a job where I'll be sitting most of the time.. How long will I still need to recover?

July 14, 2015 - 4:04am
EmpowHER Guest

My sub taylar fusion involved a bone graft from my knee and two screws. It was done in September 2014 and has gone exactly to plan. The crutches were a pain & I seemed to be wearing that boot for ever, but now I have no pain in my ankle at all. My little toe can be painful but I think that is from not using my foot for so long and some nerve damage. The surgeon said recovery would be a year and I'm certainly walking and cycling. I think the op was a great success and I would advise anybody in constant pain to do the same.

June 18, 2015 - 5:27am
EmpowHER Guest

Hello. I had a subtaylar fusion back in 1985. The Dr. took bone from my hip and fused it into my ankle. Back then they used staples to try to hold the joint together. Well now 30 years later I have a failed fusion and broken staples littering the joint. I can walk but if for instance I mow the lawns Saturday I crawl Sunday. Standing seems to be worse than walking. The Dr. wants to refuse the subtaylar on both feet now and get all the broken staples out. The sad part of my story is I cannot afford to take that much time off of work. I am a father of a 2 and 5 year old and live check to check. I'm not sure what to do, I told my wife if I won the lotto I'd schedule the surgery the same day :-(

June 16, 2015 - 11:24am
EmpowHER Guest

I am re-posting (original posts 14 June 2014 and 5 January 2015).

I am really sorry to read of the ongoing problems that so many of you are having after your subtalar fusions. My outcome has been amazingly life-changing - I am no longer in pain, I have recently completed an event similar to Tough Mudder; I've climbed Mount Snowdon, climbed, abseilled, hiked, returned to playing squash and tennis.... OK, there is some restriction in the foot and I would not be able to play these sports at a highly competitive level, but I am more than able to play recreationally. I have been able to enjoy an active family life with my two sons.

I just wanted to offer a positive perspective to those considering the surgery. One piece of advice I would give is to find the right surgeon - many surgeons accept 'functional' outcomes rather than recognising the importance of quality of life. I was fortunate enough to be referred to one of the top Surgeons in the country who treats Premier league footballers, England rugby players and Cricketers (I am in the UK) and, as I say, the outcome exceeded all expectations.

I tried to post some other words of encouragement in my earlier posts so please do go back and look at those if you have the time (original posts 14 June 2014 and 5 January 2015).

June 13, 2015 - 1:26pm
EmpowHER Guest

So i had my fusion surgery in Nov. 2014 and i am glad i went through with the surgery because the pain i was dealing with before the surgery was way worse. However there is a down side, i still have problema with pain and that is due to one of my screws is poking out so in Oct. 2015 i will go under one more time to have the hardware removed. I pray that this helps with the pain i am experiencing now. I agree that it is super easy to gain weight after having a fusion because of the limited mobility you have during the recovery phase. I was 220 the day of my surgery and i am only 5'3 so i vowed to eat better and get under 200lbs. It has been a struggle everyday but i take it one day at a time. I have no regrets about having my fusion. I will say this i have been on pain medication since my very first surgery back in dec. 2011 when i initially had the talus joint repaired with 6 screws and a plate the arthritis developed so quickly so i was first put on Norco thw lower dose then as time went on the pain got worse so morphine was added into the medication i was taking and i was on 15mg of morphine durimg the day and 30mg of morphine at night. Since having my fusion i am happy to report i am not on morphine anymore, i do take norco still to help with the discomfort i feel at the heel of my foot where the screw is poking out the bone. Dont loose hope, remember everyones body heals differently. Again i am happy that i did the fusion.

June 4, 2015 - 12:59am
EmpowHER Guest

I am a physical Therapist, 37 years of experience so I have seen a lot and often think about what I would do if i were in my patient's shoes. If the ankle fusion fails as so many above have described, then go for a below knee amputation and start fresh again.

you should be walking within 6 to 8 weeks, may have phantom pain to deal with for a while.

on the other hand, many people have good results, but you will not see them on these posts as they are not looking for answers on the problems or issues with their fusion.

in regards to pain control, this is most important to have during rehab because it frees your brain from guarding yourself all of the time, lets you get on with life and when your brain sees that you are normalizing your day to day activities, the brain will no longer need to hurt you as your body become's more functional

equally, depression etc will alter your perception of pain.

i work with the most severely developmental disabled individuals who come to the operating table with no emotional bagage and wake up after surgery and do even better than most so call normal people. For the most part, their original pain is gone, and they are supported with post op pain control and most of my work involves slowing them down and keeping them safe from themselves.

i stumbled on this site looking for pictures to show the group home staff what joints are fused in a total ankle fusion. '

i have a fellow, with Downs syndrome whose ankle is in cage and another fellow who is going to have an ankle fusion next week.

we will take them to the pool and play as soon as we get the go ahead from the surgeon.

i anticipate good results.

yves from Alberta Canada

February 27, 2015 - 2:31pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I'm a member of the medical community and I have to say that telling people to get a BKA was an inconsiderate and ignorant thing to say to people who are having a hard time. You lack the knowledge and compassion a GOOD physical therapist needs to work effectively with people who have difficulties.

July 9, 2015 - 10:06am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

That is exactly what I thought when I read the suggestion of BKA!I am a nurse, but more importantly, a patient considering the fusion. I fell from a roof in 1982 and suffered several broken bones in foot, ankle and toes. I was non weight bearing for 7 months, then walker and cane. Months of PT and two years fusion in three places. If my dr would have suggested BKA after the fall, I would have balked. A BKA IA nor performed for pain control, but for circulation issues.

July 15, 2015 - 1:16pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi hope you can help me....

I had a subtalar fusion in 2006 after a horse riding accident in 2004. My ankle has never been pain free since. Two and a half weeks ago I had the screw removed along with bone spurs and a debrivement of the ankle joint due to severe arthritis. I can now move my ankle left to right which of course I could not do before the screw was removed. I am not due to see my dr again until August and am waiting to start physio therapy. I cannot put much weight through my heel and am concerned something had gone wrong what's your opinion?

June 13, 2015 - 10:14am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi, I have a question since you are a physical therapist. My doctor at UCI put me on a boot after surgery 2 months. He said to start adding weight and start walking in a month without crutches. June 9th will be a month. When I walk u am in intense pain, stiffness, and aching. Is this pain normal?

June 4, 2015 - 2:18pm
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