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EDUCATION CENTER: Therapies

Fusion (Arthrodesis)

Overview
Also known as Arthrodesis.

Two percent of primary and 8% of revision total knee replacements are followed by knee fusion, or arthrodesis. Knee fusion is a salvage procedure performed when a total knee replacement fails, usually due to infection, or when the risk of failure of total knee replacement is high. Orthopedic surgeons perform this procedure on patients with arthritis and it involves literally fusing the bones together, which restricts the knee to a nearly straight position. The new fused joint loses flexibility but is more stable and can bear weight better.

Detailed Description
Specialist
Orthopedic surgeon

Procedure
During the operation, the orthopedic surgeon cuts the ends of the femur and tibia bones, then presses the flat ends together. Pins and plates or screws hold the bones in place.

Recovery
The patient remains in the hospital for several days following knee fusion surgery. Over a couple of months, the ends of the bones grow together, hence the term knee fusion. Although the knee no longer moves, it is not painful and most patients eventually walk with only a slight limp.

A patient needs several weeks post-operatively to recover from this surgery. Physical therapy is required so the patient can learn to walk and move with an unbending knee. For several months, the patient will have to wear a knee brace.

Complications/Risks
Risks are the same for this surgery as they are for any open surgery, such as bleeding and infection. Rarely, the knee becomes unfused.

Medications
Your doctor may prescribe pain medication following surgery.

See Your Doctor If
You put too much stress on adjoining joints. This stress could have an adverse effect on the fused knee.

Last updated: 26-Oct-01


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