Joint Fusion

What is a joint fusion?

Joint fusion is a procedure to join (fuse) the bones in one of your joints with bone grafts or metal pins, plates, or rods. The joint will no longer bend after the procedure.

When is it used?

Reasons for doing this procedure are:

  • The joint may be very loose, causing you to fall or have trouble moving.
  • The joint may have been damaged by disease and be very painful whenever you move it.

Ask your healthcare provider about your choices for treatment and the risks.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Make plans for your care and recovery after you have the procedure. Find someone to give you a ride home after the procedure. Allow for time to rest and try to find other people to help with your day-to-day tasks while you recover.
  • Tell your provider if you have any food or medicine allergies.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers may have more breathing problems during the procedure and heal more slowly. It is best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery.
  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Some medicines (like aspirin) may increase your risk of bleeding during or after the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep you from vomiting during the procedure.
  • Follow any instructions your healthcare provider may give you.

What happens during the procedure?

You will be given a regional or general anesthetic to keep you from feeling pain during the procedure. Regional anesthesia numbs part of the body while you stay awake. If you have regional anesthesia, you may also be given medicine to help you relax. The medicine can make you drowsy or you may fall asleep before the procedure. General anesthesia relaxes your muscles and you will be asleep.

Your healthcare provider will make a cut in the skin over the joint. Your provider will remove the damaged joint, roughen the bones, and lay pieces of bone over the joint. The pieces of bone will attach to the bones of the joint and the joint will no longer be able to bend. The bone pieces may be taken from your hip or may be donor bone. While it heals, the fused joint will be held in place with pins, screws, plates, or rods.

What happens after the procedure?

You may be in the hospital for 1 to 4 days. You may have to wear a brace or cast after surgery. You may work with a physical or occupational therapist to learn how to move now that the joint no longer bends.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • You may have problems with anesthesia.
  • You may have infection or bleeding.
  • Nerves or blood vessels in the area may be damaged.
  • The bones may not fuse and you may need further surgery.

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-07-29
Last reviewed: 2014-07-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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