Understanding Subtalar Fusion: Should I Get Surgery For My Foot Pain?
Experiencing Foot Pain? You’re Not Alone
Foot pain is a common ailment. About 1 in 3 will have foot pain. The pain can be from simple actions like standing too long, wearing the wrong shoes, or injury. There is a complex set of nerves, muscles, bones, and tendons that can cause over 30 different ailments. Joint pain is one particularly painful and long-term condition. In severe cases, subtalar fusion surgery is necessary to bring relief.
The source of the pain
Of the many reasons for foot pain, joint pain can be the most common. The subtalar joint, located right below the ankle joint can cause pain and limit range of motion. This joint gives the ankle the ability to rotate and make small adjustments on uneven terrain. Subtalar joint pain mostly comes from injury or osteoarthritis, which is the wear and tear of the cartilage.
Give that foot some TLC
If the foot pain continues to affect walking and the quality of life, see a doctor immediately. The doctor will assess the pain using scans like an x-ray. In most circumstances, non-surgical treatment can help. These include hot and cold therapy, massage, medication, and physical therapy. However, if there is no relief, then surgery may be the next step.
Deciding on subtalar fusion
Subtalar fusion is the best procedure to correct long-term pain caused by injury or arthritis. The surgery involves the process of fusing the subtalar joint to the adjacent ankle joint. Before deciding on surgery, the doctor nefeds a better view of the damage. Using an arthroscope, the surgeon will be able to get a better look at the damage in the subtalar joint. From there, the surgeon will be able to decide on surgery.
Subtalar fusion, step by step
The procedure can be minimally invasive and done in about 90 minutes. Surgeons complete the procedure under general anesthesia. From an incision outside the ankle, the surgeon will clear damaged cartilage and bone. Then with 1 or 2 screws, the surgeon will fuse the joints. A tube may be used to drain the excess fluid before the would is closed.
Surgical outcome of subtalar fusion
Rest assured, the screws are permanent fixtures and will last for decades. In terms of recovery, the patient will be off the affected ankle for about 12 weeks. The joint will be secured using a combination of a partial cast, full cast, and boot. There's also physical therapy and medication involved to help with swelling. Persons with subtalar fusion report a significant improvement in pain. However, this comes at the expense of some overall flexibility.
Is surgery right for me?
Despite the success of surgery, the procedure is not for everyone, as all surgical procedures come with risks. Doctors will make sure to try all non-surgical treatments first. Persons should only get subtalar fusion if the pain still exists after exhausting other pain management recommendations. There should also be obvious damage to the subtalar joint that prevents simple movement. Consider all these facts before discussing surgery. For more information, speak with an orthopedic specialist or foot surgeon.
No. Because anesthesia is required for surgeries, we cannot let anyone drive themselves home following a procedure. We ask that you arrange for a family member or close friend to drive you to and from the facility on the day of your appointment. You also need a responsible adult to stay with you for 24 hours after receiving anesthesia.
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