As a foot and ankle specialist, I aim to provide pain relief while maintaining a person’s overall function. Here is a case example of when pain relief is solved with “fusing a joint.”
A 50 year old woman presents with pain of the R heel for over 10 years. She admits to suffering a motor vehicle accident that resulted in breaking her heel bone. At the time, surgery was performed to put the pieces together. She was told that in the long run, she would eventually have to undergo “fusion of the joint.” She suffers from pain daily and is unable to walk without discomfort. She had undergone shoe modification, injections and physical therapy with minimal relief. She came to my office for a surgical opinion.
Upon exam, she had limited movement of the ankle and subtalar joint, the joint below the ankle. A CT scan was obtained revealing significant arthritis of the subtalar joint, the ankle joint was preserved. The patient had suffered from post-traumatic arthritis (from the accident). So with each step, the joint moves against injured cartilage causing inflammation and pain. She was at the end stage of arthritis and didn’t want to be in pain anymore. She was a suitable surgical candidate.
Fusing a joint simply means to make two bones into one so that there is no more movement between the bones, thus stopping the pain. There are 33 joints in the foot that allows for fluid movement when we walk. At the end stage of arthritis, such as from an old injury, the joint is already disrupted and irreparable. Fusing the subtalar joint (the joint between the talus and calcaneus bone) has been a well accepted solution to damaged joints and it eliminates pain.