Joint Fusion Surgery FAQ
posted by Michael Carlson, MD | April 9, 2018
Also known as arthrodesis, joint fusion is a surgical procedure for the treatment of severe arthritis pain. It involves fusing together the bones in your aching joint to create one solid bone. The fused bone is often more stable and results in decreased pain.
Here’s a look at who needs joint fusion surgery and what you should know about it.
If your arthritis is severe and traditional treatments have not been effective for you, you may require joint fusion surgery. This procedure can be used to treat conditions of the back like scoliosis or degenerative disk disease. Joint fusion surgery can also be performed in the:
Because joint fusion surgery involves a long recovery period, your doctor may want to confirm in advance that you’re prepared to cope with the extended healing process. This procedure is not right for you if you have:
Depending on the type of joint fusion you need, your procedure can be performed either in the hospital or in an outpatient facility. Here’s what you can expect:
Recovery from joint fusion surgery will take some time, during which the ends of the joint grow together into a single bone — eventually, you won’t be able to move this area. But until then, you need to keep the area protected with a cast or brace and keep all your weight off the joint. Many people use walking assistance devices like crutches, a walker or even a wheelchair.
Expect stiffness and losing some range of motion. Recovery can take up to 12 weeks, so you may want to have a family member or friend around to help you during this time. Physical therapy may help reduce pain, as might non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Talk to your doctor about which medicines you should and shouldn’t take.
Joint fusion procedures are generally safe, with low risk of complications. A few minor risks that do exist, however, include:
Your doctor or orthopedic specialist can help you determine when joint fusion surgery might be right for you.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.