Bones not healing- Ankle surgery

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OMG, this ankle surgery recovery is rough. I had my flat foot corrected and fused with lots of screws holding bones together and lots of tendon work early last November. I have struggled through the pain, non weight bearing, being home bound, and of course the boot like all of you have. Three weeks ago X-rays showed that although one bone joint fused together another did not and broke apart including breaking the 4 inch screw. This was devastating as I was told the surgery would have to be repeated. My dosage of Vitamin C has been upped dramatically has a deficiency was discovered. I’m doing everything to put off this 2nd surgery, my surgeon says delaying a few months won’t hurt the success of the second surgery and my mental health needs a break. The pain is bad as is function despite a custom brace, compression socks and trying not to walk much on it.

My question is: is bone healing a common complication of ankle surgery? My surgeon says he followed all protocol and my X-rays were perfect up until I began weight bearing with boot at 11 weeks. 

There me is no question I will need to have this done and my surgeon is a top ankle surgeon at an excellently rated teaching hospital. Any recommendations as I approach surgery #2?

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9 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Nancy. I'm at 11 wks too. My doctor told me that my bones were completely healed, but I guess all the necessary are healing around my screws. I guess , I don't know. I'm so tired of pain also.

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  • Posted

    I feel you pain I really do, I had my fusion in May last year. My mobility has decreased and I have awful pain in my knees, hips and back.

    You know I just think it the luck of the draw with fusions, i really don’t think that it’s not a perfect solution to ankle problems.

    And I also think if someone has zero complication she/he it very lucky and fortunate.

    I’m now getting really for my 8th ankle of in 14yrs; I need to have all the mental work removed. That will be 6 screws, two plates and a clip in my heal which should be fun. I’m so fed up with orthopaedic/bone as I deal with it not just at home but work too!

    But I keep going as most of us do, I try to keep smiling and I guess I’m thankful that I’m up and walking again.

    Hope thing ease up for you soon Nancy. Claire. Xx

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    • Posted

      Sorry *I meant that I really don’t think fusions are a solution to ankle problems!  
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  • Posted

    Hi Nancy!

    I feel your pain literally. I had ankle replacement surgery back in November of 2017, and I am now just starting to walk on the operated foot. I had no idea that I was going to have to learn how to walk again. My new ankle is so stiff , that I believe it's going to take months before I will walk half way normal again. Had I known the pain during PT was going to be so painful, I would have never gone through with the surgery. 

    I wish you all the best, and hope your pain goes away quickly. 

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    • Posted

      Hi GIGI - I suffered a trimalleolar compound fx about 38 yrs ago. Back then, the only option was fusion or suffer. I suffered and waited for ankle replacements to see how they would fare. I was concerned that I would have a fusion and a miraculous AR would be invented a few months later. After having THR 3.5 yrs ago, I am very aware of the post-op aches and pains that surgeons skip around telling us about. Your post just reminded me of that again. I mean, if I'm having periodic pain after 3.5 yrs for a hip; I can only imagine what would happen with an ankle. Poor little ankle is so complex and much smaller than a hip but still weight-bearing. I wouldn't think the ankle would be stiff after AR and that you need to learn to walk again - so that is good info. The other component of these procedures that I see lacking in the posts from women is that doctors don't seem to be testing for osteoporosis and/or putting people on some calcium/vitamin D supplements to help with bone strengthening. Was that ever mentioned in the discussions you had with your doctor? 

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    • Posted

      Hi JLo12439!

      I did have a bone density test ordered by my surgeon before surgery, as well as metal testing.  My bone density was low, but I have been taking calcium vitamins for years. My metal test showed that I am highly allergic to Nickel Sulfate Hexahydrate. The one thing that bothers me, is the lack of a full disclose of what was ahead of me after surgery. 

      I still can't drive, so I am dependent on family and friends. These are things that patients need to know beforehand to prepare for the aftermath. Thank God I do not work, or I would have been fired already. 

      I hope your pain subsides, and you can live pain free. 

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    • Posted

      I"m sorry to hear that you still can't drive. That was one of my major considerations. It was my understanding that I wouldn't be able to drive (right ankle) for several months and although I'm retired, I live alone and the thought of being home bound for 6 mos was more than I could handle. Walmart and restaurant deliveries can only do so much smile 

      My HR surgeon didn't order either test sad I think it's because I really didn't have a choice for the hip replacement; I couldn't walk. But I did get a DEXA and blood test for any vitamin deficiencies to help make the AR decision. I've been taking supplements too, but I guess it hasn't been enough because the DEXA showed I have osteopenia. I'm starting to wonder if the 'recommended dietary amounts' are correct. I can't help but think that this would negatively affect my healing process so I decided to put off ankle surgery and having follow-up blood tests done.

      The whole disclosure thing is troubling. Please update us on your recovery. AR's are still ground breaking. I wish you the very best.

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  • Posted

    Hi Nancy,

    I would guess that ankle fracture non-unions  (bones that don't set properly) are probably uncommon, but I have not seen any statistics on that.

    As you know (or should know), there can be many reasons behind why bones don't knit properly. In your case, despite the x-ray evidence and your practitioner giving you the thumbs up for weight bearing-- one fracture wasn't ready for the stress. Only your medic could attempt to explain why (but he or she has already defended his/her work by saying they followed standard procedures).

    I'm sure there is controversy with claimed need for surgery for 'flat feet'. A lot of cases of 'flat feet' are functional and not pathological, and can probably be best treated with orthotics at first, and solved with proper exercises and care (this is my opinion). My brother went through this surgery ordeal to 'fix' his flat feet and his surgeon botched it badly, leading to dysfunctional and painful feet. He had repeated surgery just to fix the first surgery.

    Some orthos are using PEMF (look up online) to treat non-unions and slow healing bone fractures. It really helps, and could mean difference between disappointment and success.

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  • Posted

    Hi Nancy, I'm so sorry this has happened to you. As you go into this second surgery, at least you are aware of the pain, swelling, discomfort and frustration that goes along with it, instead of being blindsided by it like you were the first time. Plan for whatever made you more comfortable the last time-plenty of pain/nausea medicine, things to do while down, etc. Ask your physical therapist for suggestions on how to make the second time more successful. They really know your injury/recovery a lot more than the surgeon does, and frankly, a good surgeon lets the therapist decide how/when to progress your weightbearing (with guidelines,of course) since they are the ones who see and treat you most frequently and are more aware of your day to day problems.

    Good luck-we are here for you.

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