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

By March 30, 2010 - 9:51pm
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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

There is a brace that enables me to have an active life again. Ankle fusion is about the only option for me, due to AVN of the talus (which is dead portions of the talus bone resulting from a fracture). The brace takes the weight off the ankle, and holds it and the foot in place. It is like an external prosthesis. I was done being active, only limping short distances with a boot. Now I am back to being active! I have only had the brace a few weeks and still have a long way to go to bring back my atrophied muscles, but I have already gone for a 5 mile hike up and down a steep mountain, ran and jogged short distances, and I can JUMP! Hopefully I can hold off getting a fusion, but even if I get one I can still use this brace to be active. The brace is called an ExoSym and you can look it up on the internet to find out more about it.
Good Luck with everything.

August 4, 2016 - 12:41pm
EmpowHER Guest

Fusion was about my only option until I found a brace that lets me be active, without pain, despite AVN of the talus (which is dead parts of the talus bone due to a fracture). I was done doing anything but limping short distances with a boot on. Now I can hike, jog, run, jump. I have only had this brace for a few weeks, but I have already gone for a 5 mile hike up and down a steep mountain. I still have a long way to go as my muscles are atrophied on my injured side and I need to work to build them back before I can jog or run long distance. But I can run short distances! The brace is called ExoSym and it takes the weight off the foot and ankle. It is an external prosthesis. You can search ExoSym brace and look on the internet about it. So sorry about your ankle injury. Sue

August 4, 2016 - 11:32am
EmpowHER Guest

I had my fusion in 2009, was not allowed to put weight on it for 4mos, the first month I started to walk the ankle swelled up, no pain. Second month I was good to go. I walk an hour everyday, work out with weights, swim and do the elliptical for 30min a day. Elliptical is better than the treadmill for the ankle fused people.I had to eliminated tennis and running. I also got a handicap tag, you can download the form and bring it to your doc to sign, is comes in handy, so you can access buildings easier through the ramp at the handicap spot, no curbs,and I bring it with me when someone else drives so I can have easy access. Curbs and steps are my nemesis and I avoid them. I can still golf but I must go up the steep T boxes or terrain backwards.
Persevere and hang in, it will get better and let people know that you can't do steps or curbs. I always ask if there are elevators at venue/office. I did not walk in the boot as it hurt, so I took it off and put on a shoe, didn't tie it up and used crutches until I could walk,if the walker boot is not put on correctly you will have pain and not be able to walk, that happened to me, so I chucked the boot and crutched it for a while. Be your own advocate, let the doc know. Remember the doc is a carpenter,putting screws and plates in your joint.

July 20, 2016 - 7:37am

Hi I'm 19 year old female and would like some advice back in 2006/2007 not sure when I fractured my right ankle in three places, had a cast on for 4 week and was all fine.

I then proceeded to have physiotherapy to help strengthen my ankle where she proceeded to make a comment that I was walking with my ankle out to the side so she stuck tape on it to keep it straight and then referred me to somebody else.

I had it manipulated because of the way it was positioned and lack of movement to try and make it more flexible, I then around 2008 was still having issues where they done a scan and put me in a boot for 6-8 weeks and then told me after that time that I was just a bad sprain and have me a splint to use that was useless.

But since the it is constantly got the same swelling every day, I have movement but is limited and can only be moved when pushed by someone else, pins and needles.

I have quite bad pain and aches most likely every week and it shoots pains up my leg, really bad balance where I constantly fall or go unbalanced at the simple thing of putting a sock on or Shoe and walking in a straight line I'm sick of saying I'm sorry because I accidentally bumped into Someone because of my balance.

It then makes me limp and it still angles out to the side and that's the way I walk and always have since I suffered this injury which was almost 11 or 10 years ago.

I am going to make an appointment at the doctors this week, but scared as because of my age they just always pass you off and say it's fine it will go, I can already rule out arthritis because I had that tested because my toes and fingers are crooked, I want it seen too, as I would like something done or seen too as I want to be a paramedic and am scared of this stopping me because of pain of being on feet for an amount of time, as you can't be unreliable in that job, I only have one more year left at college and then university for two years.

Has anyone suffered from anything similar or has any suggestions as I loved playing football and still do but it always buckles, swells and causes pain so I can't play and I would love to become more active.

July 10, 2016 - 7:09pm

I have just had my 3rd fusion, originally i had just my subtalar fused as i shattered my heel in 1995. After a year the pain was worse and subtalar was not fusing and my anklle had now become very damaged and also my cartilage was shot . My second fusion was to redo the subtalar and also the ankle using some fibul bone from my leg, another year went past and all joint were non union andpain was still bad. I have just had my 3rd fusion (22,6,2016) which is subtalar and ankle but this time i have a plate down the side of my leg which is ment to be more solid and have had some bone taken from my pelvis. Had my clips and stitches out yesterday and and a nice new plaster from the knee down, i am not very excited as i am expecting the same results as the last 2 ops but you never know this one might work :). I live in Hastings and my kids love going to the beech and are always puzzled as why i cant go in the beech, things like this do get you down as stairs and any uneven surface are a nightmare but i just hope the pain goes as it is just getting me down.

July 5, 2016 - 4:30am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Matthew Radford)

I had my ankle totally fused,4 screws. No movement whatsoever.
I have adjusted by eliminated steps and curbs, I go around them or ask if there is an elevator at the event/office I will be going to. I also have a Handicap Tag that I use and take with me when someone else drives so I have access to easy entry. You can download the handicap form and take it to the doc to sign.
I had to eliminate many activities, tennis and running are out, but I can walk and use the elliptical, weight training and swimming are good. It is a matter of adjusting and accepting your new life. My family knows I cannot go to the beach and accept it.
I was not able to put weight on my ankle after surgery for 4mos and the the first month I had a lot of swelling and minimun pain. It should get better for you and make your OWN destiny.
I wish you the best.

July 20, 2016 - 7:26am
EmpowHER Guest

I had the STAR ankle replacement in early January, 2016 and am so happy that I did not have the fusion. l am a swimmer and scuba diver. My gate is normal which is a problem with the fusion and I can use fix and swim as before. The ligament was also repaired and that took a little longer to heal. But after only 8-10 weeks I was walking normally with occasional mild pain.
If possible this is the way to go.
I had to insist on consultants and had to see many many medical personnel to finally get approval for the implant but it was well worth it. One should insist on consultants for the implants. The STAR is good because you have the same movement as your original ankle.

May 16, 2016 - 12:54am
EmpowHER Guest

As I posted before, I eventually opted to have an amputation after 13 saved surgeries and chronic infection. I have now been an amputee for 5 years and am VERY happy and pain free! Feel free to write me if you are considering this as an option and would like more information.

February 4, 2016 - 10:03am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I had my subtalar joint fused 14 years ago, I was 16. It wasn't from arthritis or an accident or anything, I had a foot abnormality that meant the joint was partially fused already but all owing just enough movement to cause pain.
I had the screw removed about a year after the original surgery as I was still having pain. Don't get me wrong, I'd do the surgery over again, I could hardly walk before it.
Eventually (after a million specialists and many years) they decided my ankle joint was overcompensating for the fusion. I have pain if I walk too much or stand too long. Eventually I'll have crippling arthritis in it and the only solution would be a complete fusion of the whole ankle. It's affected my knees, hips and back as well, because of the way I walk and move.
I always thought id rather have a prosthetic foot than an immobile one, at least there would be movement lol. It's always been laughed off as a joke though I'm quite serious. How do you find the difference? Do you at all regret it? It's something I'll have to decide in a few years and I hate the idea of complete fusion.

October 8, 2016 - 12:16am
(reply to Anonymous)

Hi There,
I was 27 when my heel was crushed and sustained knee, back, and neck injuries and they are all getting much worse and ready for surgeries. With my foot, I had about 5 decent years with the hardware in comparison to what most people do. I was told that this was because my bachelor's degree was in Exercise Physiology and I was pursuing a Master's in Physical Therapy (utilized pool therapy after being discharged from PT)and I was a fitness model at the time of the accident. Thus, the hardware started to literally tear through my tendons and ligaments. The hardware was removed too late and the doctor I was seeing was injecting cortisone straight into those Peroneal Tendons causing me zero function at this time and in need of a Subtalar fusion per new Ortho. I did get an injection in my Subtalar joint but it did not help at all so now I don't believe a fusion will help with my pain. The pain is debilitating and this injury has affected my financial state, emotional state, social life, relationships and etc. I am now 41 years of age and am researching the outcomes of amputation and the quality of life that it gives back. For example, if Amy Purdy can win the Olympics and lead a great life, then I am pretty sure this may be my answer. Were you amputated below the knee? How long was the recovery? Pain free? I bet your able to do so much more than most of the stories in this blog and that is why I am considering it. I also am very surprised that there has never been a topic that covers these injuries on a national level. These foot injuries are life changing and people just don't understand how it truly affects one behind closed doors. I truly believe this needs to be a topic addressed like on Dr. Oz or the Doctors for all of us that have truly struggled beyond what most people imagine to the point of contemplating an amputation and seeking advice from others like yourself.
Also, please tell me your age when you opted for the amputation and when did you get to the point where you were very satisfied with your life after this surgery?
Thank you in advance :)

February 8, 2016 - 3:34pm
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