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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 Comment53 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for the reply everyone :). A little problem now :( right next to the scar on the bottom of my foot is a slight raised bump and is really painful to touch never mind put weight through it. Has anyone experienced that? Thank you :)

November 24, 2014 - 5:57am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi everyone just looking for a bit of advice. I'm 7 weeks post subtalar fusion and is going great and both the incisions one on the outside of my foot and the other below my heel are both healing well and scabs are just about coming off now. I've virtually had no pain and been given a walking air boot/cast. The problem is I had my first x ray last week (post 6 weeks) and was told everything is healing great so I can start fully weight bearing as I please :). But I'm so nervous! I've had problems with my left ankle virtually all my life I'm only 24 and had an opp to remove the coalition 2.5 years ago which didn't work and left me in so much more pain. So the subtalar fusion was my only option really. So anyway how long did you guys stay on crutches for? As I don't know whether I'm pushing my self too hard or not hard enough as I'm really trying to walk without my crutches but I'm so nervous! Plus my leg looks about as thin as a pencil! So want to build it back up. Many thanks

November 21, 2014 - 8:23am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi, I am now 9 weeks post op, wounds completely healed & I am slowly coming out of the boot nut still using one crutch. My ankle swells easily but the physio excercises & massages work wonders. I'm a bit concerned about some red patches on my foot. My leg is very thin but I'm looking forward to doing more to build it up again.

November 22, 2014 - 12:04am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi, I'm 23 and I had an ankle fusion mid August. I was transferred into my aircast in September and was told everything was healing well and to partially weight bear. I, however decided as the weeks progressed that I felt comfortable fully weight bearing through my aircast. I had my cast off a week ago and my surgeon told me walking on it was the best thing I could have done for myself despite being originally told to partially weight bear. I think its down to preference and comfort. It took me about 3 weeks before I decided to weight bear through my aircast and I only did so around the house and inside. Take it slow and if it hurts grab the crutches.

November 21, 2014 - 9:09am
EmpowHER Guest

I would like to add my little story: I was born with bilateral clubbed feet and in Aug of 2012 tore up a bunch of tendons and dislocated my navicular bone in my right foot during my 5th Triathlon. It was misdiagnosed as a stress fracture for 3 months. Then I changed doctors and ended up with surgery by January of 2013. Had three tendons repaired and a fusion. Was on a scooter for 3 months and then able to walk again. Rehabbed slowly and then got back to "slow" exercise (I was advised to never run again, so I obeyed!). October of 2013, I was just walking from one end of a room to another at work and felt something "give way" in my left foot this time. Went back to the doctor, and same thing!! I had my subtalar fusion and multiple tendon repair on that foot by November of 2013. Almost a year later and I can walk. My orthopedic surgeon was wonderful. It is true that on cold days you can definitely feel those screws but overall I have to say that I am happy with my results. My best piece of advice: just follow the doctors orders! When he says don't walk on it, DON'T DO IT! Let it heal. Another big one: avoid anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen and Aleve. These can inhibit the formation of new bone needed to solidify the fusion.

November 18, 2014 - 11:21am
EmpowHER Guest

4 years post Subtalar fusion and I knew from the start that something wasn't right .but I was battling the huge ego of the dr who did the surgery who kept saying wow it looks great, better then we thought it would be at this point. mine was done with a cadaver bone a huge screw about 4" long .I was none weight bearing for 4 months then the boot and then off to rehab ...well my insurance at the time was not to good so rehab was three visits to a guy who said ok walk ..well it took me way longer to be able to even put any weight on my foot let alone keep up with what was expected regardless of how hard I tried. I have had several severe injuries and surgeries and had to learn to use injured areas but this was just not working. I kept telling the surgeon hey something is not right and would get the same answer every time oh its looking fantastic in the x-rays youl just have to tuff it out so I tried n tried but couldn't get a stride that didn't cause horrific pain swelling turning black n blue..after more then 16 months I was barley able to walk any more then maybe 50 yards without 3-4 days of agony swelling ...so right at the 2 year mark I seen the surgeon/ ankle specialist and he said well it has healed beautifully saying he did a perfect job and it was just me and asked if I was trying for disability ......well last month after four years of pain and immobility and no quality of life as far as walking I got new insurance seen a new dr in 10 minutes and two xrays he tells me oh there is partial non fusion, misalignment and now I need to have the rest fused meaning the ankle ...now I know it was bad before the first surgery it had been broken several times and was useless I couldn't bear weight on my foot at all. but for the four years post op it wasn't really any better so I was reluctant at first to even consider this ankle fusion but the hope and the possibility of being pain free have lead me to decide that I will try one more time and if it is like the first time ....omg well cross that bridge when I get there I just pray for a good outcome .my point in all of this rambling is to do your research know who is cutting on you and if you feel its not right don't let them say oh its doing great ....read learn and research to the point you know it as well as they do ....and beware cuzz they sell it like a used car

November 17, 2014 - 5:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have had 15 surgeries on rt ankle and now have complete fusion, I am just starting to put weight on foot, all that moves on rt foot is toes.
I have an awesome surgeon at Vanderbilt in Tn, that fixed all the stuff other doctors messed up. my ankle problems started in 1986 when I fractured talus and tibia in a work related accident, ankle got fixed but had problems in 1996 with same ankle due to a different work related accident, hence 15 surgeries later

November 16, 2014 - 3:27am
EmpowHER Guest

I was in a car accident 4/9/2011. I had a open fracture of tibia i started with 11pins and a plate all holding this together... About a month and a half later i experienced my first bone infection. They removed all my metal (screws &plate) n back into a cast i went. As I had a huge hole in my leg i had a skin graft in wound vac placed to help this heal. After it "healed" i had a small area that would bubble up then ooze icky stuff. Plastic surgeon wanted to go in and check it out ortho doc said no... 8 months later found 2nd bone infection. My bone was squishy so they cut out the 1 1/2 inches of my tibia and placed an Ilizorov external fixator. This slowly moved my tibia down to meet with my ankle to fuse all while growing new bone at top of tibia. I wore the fixator for 18 long months. Now they say after almost 4 years of fighting to keep my foot that it is all healed however now i have pain in my subtalar joint. Still on 2 crutches doc says i should be off since it's been almost 4 years. He is sending me for a shot of lidocaine hopefully this will end that pain he talked of fusing my subtalar but is also talking about amputation. Scary thought. Anyways, Currently i use a rocker bottom shoe. I live in the US and here they make them out of your own shoe so it doesn't have to b a granny shoe. I had mine made out of an Nike Air Max n it doesn't look bad. Most people don't even notice it's altered. Im also in the world of getting a orthotic somewhat like an afo but only goes to my ankle. Also not noticeable since its mostly inside my shoe...

Hope everyone happy healing as i keep yelling myself its gonna get better and could be so much worse... (In the accident i was dead brought back by cpr and i broke my neck and can still stand up) and seriously if you get really down about your situation just wheel yourself thru a large hospital and think about the other injuries u see... It will make you feel better. For real...

October 13, 2014 - 1:56pm
EmpowHER Guest

Can anybody tell me about the shoes they wore afterwards? If I'm going into granny boots I need to get my head around it first! By the way, getting a wheel chair was a great move, I now have so much more independence.

October 9, 2014 - 2:16am
EmpowHER Guest

I had my left ankle fused when I was 15, and 21 years later my ankle is still attached and Im walking just fine :)

Arthritis can get the better of you during cold nights, but remember not to push yourself too hard. The pins and needles feeling will come and go, it's just blood circulation rerouting :)

Be patient and I'm sure you're recovery will be just fine.

Best of luck.

October 6, 2014 - 4:24am
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