What is Fusion Surgery?

If non-surgical treatments do not work, your physician may recommend ankle surgery.

One of the most common surgeries is an ankle fusion (arthrodesis). During the fusion surgery, a surgeon prepares the surfaces of the affected bones in the ankle or hindfoot. The next step is to add a material (such as a bone graft) to promote new bone growth. Then the surgeon attaches hardware — wires, screws or plates — to hold the bones in place while they regrow. This type of surgery has been used for decades to relieve ankle and hindfoot pain.

Another surgical option is an ankle replacement (arthroplasty). With this procedure, the surgeon replaces the ankle bones with an implant. This surgery is relatively new. The implant and techniques used in ankle replacement are still evolving.

Your physician will discuss your options with you, keeping in mind your unique situation. If you are uncertain about your decision, you may find a physician for a second opinion.

How does fusion surgery work?

A successful fusion surgery can reduce or relieve pain and improve mobility. The difference between success and failure is whether or not the bones grow together. When bones fuse, it’s called a union. When bones fail to fuse, it’s called a nonunion.

Every patient regrows bone differently, and not all fusion surgeries result in successful unions. Until the approval of AUGMENT® in September 2015, successful ankle and hindfoot fusions were most likely with an autograft — the gold standard. This process requires a second surgery to harvest bone for a bone graft from the patient’s hip or leg. This second surgery can result in pain and complications. Some patients have had a successful fusion, but have had complications from harvesting the bone.

Now physicians can choose AUGMENT® for their patients. AUGMENT® uses your body’s naturally occurring protein to impact and initiate healing at the earliest stages. AUGMENT® is proven to work just as well as an autograft, and it comes from a package instead of the hip or leg.

Before you have ankle or hindfoot fusion surgery, it’s important to ask your physician about AUGMENT® . You will have as good a chance of successful outcomes with AUGMENT® as with an autograft. More importantly, you’re spared a second surgery to harvest bone. You’re also spared the pain and complications that can result from harvesting bone.

Am I at risk for a nonunion?

If you have one or more of the following factors, it can decrease your body’s ability to heal and your bones’ ability to regrow, resulting in a nonunion:

  • Smoker
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Obesity

If you have any of these factors, it’s especially important to talk to your physician about AUGMENT® .

In the largest ever clinical trial in foot & ankle surgery, 75% of the patients had one or more of these factors. Even so, patients treated with AUGMENT® fared just as well in improvements in clinical outcomes as patients treated with an autograft. The patients treated with AUGMENT® were spared a second surgery to harvest bone and any related complications.