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Ankle Arthroscopy

What is the cause?

Arthroscopy is an examination of the joint using an instrument called an arthroscope, so called “Key hole surgery”. This is inserted into the joint through small incisions called portals.

The arthroscope is a tube with a light at the end and a lens at the tip. This allows visualisation of the joint and a diagnosis can be confirmed using this or surgical procedures can be carried out by using instruments introduced into other portals elsewhere in and around the ankle joint.

Ankle ligaments are important for the function and stability of the ankle joint and if they get damaged your ankle may give way doing physical activities. If instability is left untreated for a long period of time permanent damage to the joint can occur which can lead to arthritis. Often in this scenario you will be offered an ankle arthroscopy to inspect the joint surfaces of the ankle and if any treatment is required is required inside the joint this can be performed arthroscopically.

If there is significant instability the ligament can either be repaired or reconstructed but this will be done as an open surgical procedure from the outside. It can often be done at the same time as the ankle arthroscopy.

Other procedures that can be carried out by arthroscopy include removing excessive scar tissue or bone that may cause impingement and restriction in movement in the joint. An ankle fusion can occasionally be performed using arthroscopic techniques.

What the surgery involves.

Ankle arthroscopy is done usually as a day case. The swelling needs to go down before you mobilise as often a lot of fluid is pumped into the joint during the surgical procedure to help with visualisation and also to wash away any bone or soft tissue that is removed with instruments. The bulky dressings are reduced on the day after your operation and simple dressings are placed over the wounds to keep them dry and clean. Application of ice in the first few days post op will help to reduce swelling.

You will usually have a general anaesthetic but may also have a popliteal local anaesthetic block to help with post op pain. (See general information on having surgery on the foot and ankle)

Often you will be able to mobilise weight bearing as tolerated but it is advisable to rest as much as possible in the first two weeks post op to keep the swelling down and to get the wounds fully healed with the minimum of complications.

Occasionally however if a lot of procedures have been done inside the ankle you may be asked to non-weight bear. You will usually be given crutches to help with your mobility. If you have a ligament repair or reconstruction you will usually be placed in a below knee plaster (POP) for 6 weeks and after this time you will be placed into a removable ankle brace and will commence physiotherapy.