Bone Fusion

If your Podiatrist ever says you need a fusion, he is not talking about the energy source that the Russians were after in The Saint. He/She also isnt saying you need to go grab a V8 fusion drink, although if you really need one Im sure it wouldnt be frowned upon, especially if you provided a second (wink, wink). No, what your physician was telling you is that you have a joint that isnt well, and eliminating that joint would be best for you.

What would be the cause and necessity of such a drastic procedure?

There are many causes for the need to fuse a joint. The biggest three reasons are:

  1. Pain, Pain, Pain
  2. Instability of the joint
  3. Deformity

Many pathological conditions may cause these (Arthritis, Trauma, etc). As the joint wears down the bones may directly contact one another causing damage to the overlying cartilage. If allowed to continue the joint surfaces may completely erode. This process will cause increasing pain, loss of mobility and stability, and eventual deformity. Sometimes the body will try to fuse the joint itself.

Fusing the joint will remove all motion and thus, if done successfully, rid you of that pain.

Fusion Details:

  • The cartilage on both sides of the joint must be completely removed down to bare bone (so to speak). Any cartilage left will inhibit a complete fusion and may still cause pain. In some cases, this is a very difficult task.
  • Once the cartilage has been fully removed, the joint must be placed in the proper anatomical position. Your physician must consider the full function of the foot, not just of that joint. If not placed in the right alignment, or as near as able, pain may result.
  • After careful alignment, the joint is stabilized with some form of internal fixation. There are many types of fixation techniques that utilize screws, plates, staples, and pins.
  • The next step is the hurry up and wait phase. Your physician will follow you and take repeated x-rays. What he/she is looking for is radiographic evidence of joint fusion. Once that is seen, you will be cleared for full activity.
  • Sometimes the fusion is delayed and at worse, it doesnt. Thankfully we have methods to encourage fusion. These are used as needed.

The goal of the fusion is to remove your pain. If the joint hurts with motion, then by eliminating the motion we should eliminate the pain.

If you are in need of a foot/ankle specialist, please contact Dr. Bowman at 713-467-8886 or visit

Photo Credit: zirconicusso via

Category: Bone Problems

Tags: Fusion, Instability, Joint Pain