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

By anneh8sldrs
 
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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)

Add a Comment35 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I had partial ankle fusions when I was a teenager. I'm almost 50 yrs now and I've had to slow down my physical activity. (I used to run but it was beginning to tear up my knees.) I use NSAIDs to help keep swelling and stiffness down on very active days. Need to be careful with those as they can be hard on your stomach. I prefer to wear boots with a modest heal. The boot is warm and supports my feet and the slight heal take some of the pressure off of the metatarsals. When I was running I used a carbon fiber brace used for toe-drop. This helped reinforce the metatarsals which I fractured a few times until I used the brace. I would suggest avoiding high impact exercise as it will take its toll on your ankle, knees and hips over time.

July 30, 2014 - 2:10pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

A few words of encouragement.....I had a subtalar fusion and peroneal tendon release in January 2014 and I don't look back: as difficult a decision as it was at the time, it has been life changing.

Before the fusion surgery I had chronic life-limiting pain due to post-traumatic osteoarthritis (I had fractured my calcaneus in September 2011 in a mountain biking accident). I was 36 at the time of the injury, was sporty and my husband, myself and our two children (both boys) were always active and on the go. I found it immensely difficult after the initial injury (I became depressed and was started on antidepressants) and never got back to normal, the joint being very stiff, painful and chronically swollen - I had several other smaller ops (metal removal, hydrodilatations, MUAs etc) in the hope that these would help, but ultimately I was referred to one of the best foot & ankle Surgeons in England, who diagnosed that I had peroneal tendon impingement and severe post-traumatic oseoarthritis - he advised that I had the fusion surgery and a peroneal tendon release.

It was a difficult decision to make at the time. After talking it though with my family and Psychatrist, I decided to go ahead but scheduled the surgery a few months later so that I could prepare properly - I changed our car to an automatic car so that I could drive, I ensured that I had a wheelchair available, I bought a tri-walker and a crutch pod, I stocked the freezer full of ready prepared meals, I arranged for a cleaner to come in for a few hours a week, I got fitter and lost 15kg, I worked like a dog at work to ensure that I could spend sufficient time re-cuperating at home afterwards.

I was very worried about pain control as I had suffered terribly at the time of the original ORIF calcaleus. In fact, the surgery went well, the pain was controlled with minimal pain relief and I was discharged the next day.

I had minimal pain (no need for painkillers) thereafter. Yes, it was frustrating being effectively on bed rest for 2 weeks (in a backslab) but I had worked so hard before I was kinda ready for it.

After two weeks, the stitches came out and I went into an Aircast Boot NWB.

Six weeks post surgery I was allowed to start to PWB in the Aircast Boot.

A few weeks later I ditched the crutches (walking in the boot).

Twelve weeks post surgery, I came out of the boot and the physio began and I returned to work.

I am now just under 6 months post surgery. I have NO PAIN. My normal activities of daily living are no longer affected. I can go out with my children, walk the dog without pain. I have been cycling (last ride was 80km). Yesterday I started a 0-5km running programme and I actually ran for 6 minutes!

The surgery has been life-changing. Yes, there is still a lot of work to do, but it feels like I have got my life back. I am no longer depressed, grumpy and tired the whole time.

So my advice :

If you are going to have the surgery, prepared well to minimise any disruption. Try to ensure that you have psychological support throughout (for me, this was a Psychiatrist).

If you have had the surgery and are post-op, stick in there. It may be frustrating now, but in the medium-longer term, you will realise it was well worth the investment!

June 4, 2014 - 1:31pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Thank you so much for sharing your journey!!! I'm 32 with two kids under the age of 4 and I'm going to schedule my subtalar fusion next month. I fell down while I was pregnant with my youngest and I finally reached a point (2 year later) where I can no longer stand the pain of walking. I was really scared at first when I was told I had to have the surgery and it's taken me awhile to come around to being okay with the idea. It was really encouraging to read how much your every day life has improved and I look forward to the same opportunity. :)

July 27, 2014 - 9:48pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I hope it all goes well for you.

By way of further encouragement, a few weeks ago (so 6 months post-surgery), we went on a family holiday to Wales and I was able to Climb Snowdon, Go Underground (into a Mine), went Climbing, Bouldering and Abseilling and Gorge Scrambling. I have been Orienteering with the children, I have started to play Squash and Tennis again. Not only am I alive, but I am living. It is an amazing feeling :-)

So, if/when you are feeling a bit down post-op, just hold onto why you are doing it - to improve your quality of life and be able to enjoy life, rather than to exist......

July 29, 2014 - 2:10am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi
very encouraging ! I needed to read your story.
Thanks

June 21, 2014 - 2:51pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I wanted to talk about my recent Subtalar fusion. I am 45 and my surgeon told me I needed to have this operation as I was too young to be suffering with pain as I was. After a year of deliberation with my husband and family, I decided to go ahead. We made plans to assist with life after the op.. I had the procedure take place on February 26th 2014, I have been very fortunate to nt suffer with too much pain. I only took pain killers for the first five days.. After the first two weeks I was put in a full cast after having my stitches removed. After a further two weeks I was put in an air cast boot. I'm not going to lie it is not great, but it can be taken off to wash, which is lovely.
I am now starting to put slight weight on it which does feel very strange.... I hope I continue to get on as well as I have done so far.. I am very bored and feel extremely isolated, even though I am so fortunate to have such a loving and supportive family. The frustration to not be able to do things is immense. I use a walker which has fixed brakes, I personally find this a god send..

March 28, 2014 - 4:27pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Anonymous Ms 45,
I am also 45 year old mom with a family. I've had 9 previous ankle and knee surgeries. I can walk (somewhat) around the house, but not around the neighborhood. I'm considering fusion for July, but very nervous. Now that you are 3 months post op, can you do family things again such as cooking, driving, etc? Are you in less pain than pre-op? Thanks, nervous!

June 4, 2014 - 11:30am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

A few words of encouragement.....I had a subtalar fusion and peroneal tendon release in January 2014 and I don't look back: as difficult a decision as it was at the time, it has been life changing.

Before the fusion surgery I had chronic life-limiting pain due to post-traumatic osteoarthritis (I had fractured my calcaneus in September 2011 in a mountain biking accident). I was 36 at the time of the injury, was sporty and my husband, myself and our two children (both boys) were always active and on the go. I found it immensely difficult after the initial injury (I became depressed and was started on antidepressants) and never got back to normal, the joint being very stiff, painful and chronically swollen - I had several other smaller ops (metal removal, hydrodilatations, MUAs etc) in the hope that these would help, but ultimately I was referred to one of the best foot & ankle Surgeons in England, who diagnosed that I had peroneal tendon impingement and severe post-traumatic oseoarthritis - he advised that I had the fusion surgery and a peroneal tendon release.

It was a difficult decision to make at the time. After talking it though with my family and Psychatrist, I decided to go ahead but scheduled the surgery a few months later so that I could prepare properly - I changed our car to an automatic car so that I could drive, I ensured that I had a wheelchair available, I bought a tri-walker and a crutch pod, I stocked the freezer full of ready prepared meals, I arranged for a cleaner to come in for a few hours a week, I got fitter and lost 15kg, I worked like a dog at work to ensure that I could spend sufficient time re-cuperating at home afterwards.

I was very worried about pain control as I had suffered terribly at the time of the original ORIF calcaleus. In fact, the surgery went well, the pain was controlled with minimal pain relief and I was discharged the next day.

I had minimal pain (no need for painkillers) thereafter. Yes, it was frustrating being effectively on bed rest for 2 weeks (in a backslab) but I had worked so hard before I was kinda ready for it.

After two weeks, the stitches came out and I went into an Aircast Boot NWB.

Six weeks post surgery I was allowed to start to PWB in the Aircast Boot.

A few weeks later I ditched the crutches (walking in the boot).

Twelve weeks post surgery, I came out of the boot and the physio began and I returned to work.

I am now just under 6 months post surgery. I have NO PAIN. My normal activities of daily living are no longer affected. I can go out with my children, walk the dog without pain. I have been cycling (last ride was 80km). Yesterday I started a 0-5km running programme and I actually ran for 6 minutes!

The surgery has been life-changing. Yes, there is still a lot of work to do, but it feels like I have got my life back. I am no longer depressed, grumpy and tired the whole time.

So my advice :

If you are going to have the surgery, prepared well to minimise any disruption. Try to ensure that you have psychological support throughout (for me, this was a Psychiatrist).

If you have had the surgery and are post-op, stick in there. It may be frustrating now, but in the medium-longer term, you will realise it was well worth the investment!

June 4, 2014 - 1:37pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Thanks so much for the words of encouragement! It's terrific to hear that there's a chance that I might be able to be active with my children again. Surgery is booked for July 16th so hopefully in the New Year I will be walking without pain. I cannot imagine an hour, let alone a day, going by without my ankle pain being at the forefront of my mind. Thanks!

June 4, 2014 - 3:08pm
Queysmom (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anonymous new
Hi. I am curious, what State are you from? Have you not bee told about a knee rider/walkabout? I am 8 months post-surgery for ankle/foot reconstruction with fusion of both ankle and subtler joints. I am curious if I will be able to drive as it is my right foot. If it wan't for my knee rider I would be lost. It is my key to freedom.

April 26, 2014 - 10:15am
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