An ankle arthroscopy is keyhole surgery used to treat and assess ankle-related problems including osteophytes (bony spurs), loose bodies (chips of bone or cartilage), arthritis, osteochondral lesions (cartilage or bone damage), scarring or ligament damage, impingement (the pinching of tendons) and small fractures.
The procedure can also be used in combination with ligament repair or reconstruction surgery. It has a high rate of success for the treatment of most common ankle problems.
An ankle arthroscopy is generally performed as day surgery, taking up to an hour to undertake and the patient can go home a few hours later. Light duties be resumed after about 1-2 weeks and full recovery from the surgery is usually achieved within 3-4 months.
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a small incision is made and a small camera on a tube, known as an arthroscope, is inserted into the body. The surgeon views the camera’s images on a screen which helps to guide the use of miniature surgical instruments. A general anaesthetic is usually given, and local anaesthetic is placed into the incisions to numb some of the pain following surgery. In the case of an ankle arthroscopy, two or three ‘keyhole’ incisions are made for the arthroscopic camera and instruments to see into the joint and clean up or treat lesions. Patients will require someone to pick them up from the hospital a few hours after surgery. Crutches will be used for the first few days until it is comfortable to walk on the foot unaided. No driving is permitted for about 1 week or until walking comfortably without crutches is achieved. Full weight-bearing is generally permitted as much as it is comfortable, although a surgeon may instruct otherwise particularly if the procedure involves the repair of a fracture. The foot must be strictly rested and elevated for the first 36-48 hours then kept mostly rested and elevated for the first week. Applying ice for 20 minutes twice or three times daily for the first 3-5 days can help with swelling and pain. The outer soft bandage can be removed 48 hours after surgery and an elastic ‘Tubigrip’ is applied to help control swelling. Stick-on plastic dressings should remain on until review. A small amount of bleeding on the dressings is normal. The foot and ankle should be flexed up, down, and rotated in circles to prevent stiffening and blood clots. Physiotherapy may start after 10 days if required, although exercise on a stationary bike can begin 5-7 days post-surgery. Patients can return to light duties after 1-2 weeks and then standing or heavy work 3-5 weeks post-surgery. It is recommended to wait 6-12 weeks before resuming sports and full recovery usually takes 3-4 months.