Foot and Ankle Treatments

Northwestern Medicine orthopaedic teams bring together board-certified physicians and highly trained specialists to help patients get moving again and doing the activities they enjoy. From evaluation to rehabilitation, these orthopaedic specialists will guide your every step through a wide range of medical and surgical solutions for foot and ankle issues, including the latest minimally invasive procedures.

Some of the available foot and ankle treatments include:

Ankle arthroscopy

Ankle arthroscopy is a procedure commonly used to diagnose a joint condition or to do surgery that repairs a joint condition. Arthroscopic surgery, performed through small incisions, can lead to a faster recovery time than traditional open surgery.

During arthroscopy, a fiber-optic camera, or arthroscope, is inserted near your joint through a small incision. The arthroscope has a light and a video camera, and images from the camera are shown on a video screen and magnified so the surgeon has a clear view of your joint. This allows the surgeon to diagnose your condition, or, through additional incisions, surgical tools can be used to take a biopsy or perform corrective surgery.

Ankle arthrodesis (fusion)

Ankle arthrodesis, more commonly known as ankle fusion, is a surgery that fuses the bones of your ankle into one piece. A fused ankle joint can no longer bend. Through ankle fusion, your surgeon will remove any remaining cartilage in the joint and create a level bone surface. The bone will be put into alignment and then fused together using metal hardware or bone grafts to hold the bones in place.

After the fusion heals and the bone has grown across the joint, the metal hardware is no longer necessary. You may have the metal hardware removed, but there is no need to remove it if it is not causing a problem.

Ankle replacement

Ankle replacement involves replacing the ankle joint with a metal or plastic implant. The surgery involves resurfacing the end of the tibia (shin bone) and the talus (lower bone of the ankle) with metal and plastic components.

Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF)

Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) surgery is used to stabilize and fix broken bones. Open reduction means that the surgeon makes an incision to reach the bones; internal fixation means that metal screws, plates, sutures or rods are placed on the bone to keep it in place while it heals.

Posterior tibial tendon reconstruction

The posterior tibialis tendon is a strong cord of tissue that runs from the back of your calf down to the inside part of your ankle. It is one of the most important tendons in your leg, helping support your foot and hold up the arch of the foot when you are walking. If this tendon is injured, posterior tibial tendon reconstruction surgery can be used to help repair the injury.

Tendon reconstruction uses small incisions in the skin near the damaged tendon to go in and sew together the ends of the tendon. The surrounding tissue will be checked to make sure no other injuries have occurred, such as injury to the blood vessels or nerves. If there isn’t enough healthy tendon to reconnect, the surgeon may perform a tendon graft using a piece of tendon from another part of the body.


A bunionectomy is a surgery to remove a lump of bone from your big toe known as a bunion. The extent of the surgery will depend on the degree of deformity in the joint. The surgeon will make an incision over the swollen area at the first joint of the big toe to remove the lump. The surgeon may also need to reposition the alignment of the bones of the big toe. Metal hardware may be needed.

A bunionectomy is performed when nonsurgical options are unsuccessful.

Ankle osteotomy

Osteotomy surgery can change the shape of a flexible flatfoot to recreate a more “normal” arch shape. One or two bone cuts may be required, typically in the heel bone (calcaneus).

If flatfoot is severe, a bone graft may be needed. The bone graft will lengthen the outside of the foot. Other bones in the middle of the foot also may be involved. They may be cut or fused to help support the arch and prevent the flatfoot from returning. Screws or plates hold the bones in place while they heal.

Gastrocnemius recession

Gastrocnemius recession, or lengthening of the Achilles tendon, is a surgical treatment that lengthens the calf muscles. It is useful for patients who have limited ability to move the ankle up and down. This surgery can help prevent flatfoot from returning, but it does create some weakness with pushing off and climbing stairs. This surgery is typically performed with other techniques for treating flatfoot.

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