A serious ankle injury at work can impact your life in many different ways. If you’ve experienced an ankle injury at your Georgia workplace, a major surgery such as an ankle fusion may be necessary to make a full recovery. Understanding the basics of ankle fusion, its potential benefits and risks, and how this surgery could affect your life is important for making the best decision possible.
Healthcare for workplace injuries can be very expensive, and your necessary treatments should be covered by your Georgia employer. Even if there is a clear connection between your ankle injury and your work history, in many cases you will still need to build a strong case around your injury to get the benefits you need and deserve. We know that the workers’ compensation system can be slow and challenging to work with, which can have a negative impact on your care.
With help from one of our workers’ compensation attorneys at Gearhart Law, you can build the strongest case possible to make sure that treatments for your workplace ankle injury are covered by your employer and their insurance company.
What is Ankle Fusion
Ankle fusion, also known as arthrodesis, is a surgical procedure that permanently connects the bones of the ankle joint together. This surgery is used to reduce ankle pain and increase stability for those who suffer from severe arthritis or other serious ankle injuries. During the surgery, a surgeon will use screws and plates to secure the bones of the ankle in a fixed position. A bone graft is usually used to improve the strength of the connection and help hold the ankle bones in place.
After an ankle fusion surgery, a cast or brace should be worn for several weeks while the bones of your ankle heal and finish fusing together. While most people regain some level of ankle function, ankle mobility will be significantly limited after surgery because the bones of the ankle joint no longer move on each other. It’s very important to discuss your expectations and goals for returning to work with your orthopedic surgeon before having surgery so you can understand what to expect during your recovery process.
What is Ankle Fusion Used to Treat?
Ankle fusion surgery is typically used to treat severe ankle arthritis, chronic ankle instability, and fractures in the ankle joint that do not heal properly.
Ankle osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that gradually causes damage to the ankle joint due to repetitive wear and tear. This causes the cartilage that cushions the bones of the ankle joint to wear down and causes progressive pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty moving or bearing weight through the ankle. In many cases, OA can be caused by repetitive work activities that put excessive stress on the ankle joint. Over time, osteoarthritis can lead to permanent disability if not properly treated.
Chronic ankle instability is a condition that can occur when the ligaments and tendons of the ankle are weak or overstretched. This is usually due to repetitive injuries such as ankle sprains, which can often occur in the workplace or during certain sports. Weakened or torn supporting tissue causes the ankle to be less stable, increasing the risk of further injuries and instability. Symptoms of chronic ankle instability include pain, swelling, difficulty walking and balancing, and an increased risk of ankle sprains. Without proper treatment, chronic ankle instability can lead to severe disability.
Ankle fusion surgery is often recommended if more conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medications, or steroid injections have not effectively managed the pain and disability caused by a serious ankle injury. It’s important to discuss all potential treatment options with your doctor to make sure your ankle can be treated with the most conservative option possible.
Is Ankle Fusion Safe?
Ankle fusion surgery is considered a relatively safe procedure, although there are significant risks associated with any surgery. Some potential complications for a joint fusion surgery include infection, nerve damage, and blood clots. It’s important to discuss all potential complications and your health history with your doctor before having an ankle fusion surgery.
After ankle fusion surgery, common side effects can include swelling, bruising, and pain around the ankle joint. It’s important to know that these are normal and usually decrease over time as your recovery progresses.
The success rate of ankle fusion surgery is generally high and many people experience decreased pain with increased stability after surgery. Because the bones of the ankle are fused during surgery, ankle motion after surgery will be very limited and will affect normal life activities such as walking.
Will I Need Other Treatments?
It’s important to remember that a successful ankle fusion surgery is just one part of the recovery process. After surgery, physical therapy and rehabilitation are highly recommended to help restore strength, flexibility, and motion around the ankle so you can return to your normal activities.
Physical therapy after an ankle fusion surgery focuses on strengthening and mobility exercises to help optimize the function of your leg, ankle, and foot. Your physical therapist will work with you to develop a personalized plan that best meets your individual goals and needs, and may give you specific exercises to practice at home.
There are several medications that may be prescribed after ankle fusion surgery to help manage pain and reduce the risk of infection. These typically include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and opioids. It’s important to speak with your doctor before taking any medications to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your individual needs.
In addition to physical therapy, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as weight loss, avoiding strenuous activities, or wearing specialized footwear. Be sure to discuss your specific work duties with your doctor before surgery to ensure that you are able to return to work after an ankle fusion surgery safely. It’s important to follow all of your surgeon’s instructions carefully and ask questions along the way to ensure the best recovery possible.
Having the best possible legal representation is an important step in getting treatments for your workplace ankle injury covered by your employer. That’s why we recommend working with an expert workers’ compensation attorney at Gearhart Law.
Contact an Atlanta Injury Attorney
Our Georgia workers’ compensation lawyers at Gearhart Law Group represent victims of work-related injuries and help them get the workers’ compensation benefits that they deserve. Our lawyers understand how your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance companies will try to save money by denying or underpaying your claim. We know how to fight any objections they may have and pursue all the Georgia workers’ compensation benefits that you need. Call us now so we can evaluate your specific case and advise you of your next legal steps as well as ensuring that you are receiving the best medical care for your injuries.