Ankle Arthroscopy

What is ankle arthroscopy?

Ankle arthroscopy is ankle surgery using an arthroscope. It is used to diagnose and treat many ankle conditions.

An arthroscope is a tiny camera that is inserted into a joint through a small incision (‘arthro’ means joint and ‘scope’ refers to seeing). The camera transmits an image onto a large screen, which allows your surgeon to see the inside of the joint and then use tiny instruments (inserted through other small incisions) to make necessary repairs.

Arthroscopy is often called keyhole or minimally invasive surgery because it only requires small incisions. Compared to open surgery, arthroscopic procedures usually cause less pain and have shorter recovery periods.

Do I need ankle arthroscopy?

Ankle arthroscopy may be recommended if you have a painful ankle condition that has not or is unlikely to respond to conservative treatment (eg non-drug therapy such as physiotherapy and medications such as anti-inflammatories).

Ankle conditions treated arthroscopically include:

  • ankle arthritis
  • ankle fractures
  • ankle instability (ligament injuries)

Our Specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will discuss whether ankle arthroscopy is suitable for your ankle condition at your consultation.

How does ankle arthroscopy work?

Ankle arthroscopy is usually done as a day procedure, which means you may be able to be go home on the same day as the surgery. If you do need to stay in hospital, it’s likely to only be for one night. We will contact you before admission to let you know how long you can expect to stay in hospital.

The procedure is done under either general anaesthesia or spinal anaesthesia (an epidural).

Your leg is thoroughly cleaned and your ankle is prepared for surgery. A tourniquet is commonly used to minimise bleeding.

During the arthroscopy, your ankle may be placed in traction, which separate the bones just enough to insert the arthroscope. Your surgeon will make a small incision (about 1 cm) through your skin into the ankle joint to allow the arthroscope to be inserted.

Once the arthroscope is in the ankle joint, your surgeon will then be able to see the inside of the joint on a large screen and identify any problems. Fluid flows continually through the arthroscope to keep the image clear.

With the problem or problems identified, your surgeon can then insert tiny instruments through other small incisions. With these instruments, your surgeon may remove badly damaged tissue that won’t heal and/or make repairs to other tissue.

The instruments and arthroscope are usually then swapped around so that your surgeon can see the other side of the joint. Once finished, the arthroscope and instruments areremoved and the small incisions are closed with tape or sutures. A dressing is applied to the skin to protect the wound and a splint or boot is often placed.

How long does ankle arthroscopy take?

This depends on the condition being treated and the amount of work needed to repair it.

What to expect after ankle arthroscopy?

Depending on the type of problem being treated, you’ll probably be able to go home within a few hours of the surgery and you may be able to partially bear weight on the leg. You will probably need to use crutches or a walker. Your therapists will teach you how to get around safely, give you exercises to strengthen your ankle. You will also be given medication to treat any pain – it’s normal to feel some pain after surgery.

Although you will be able to walk, someone will need to drive you home and stay with you for at least one night to help you out.

Physiotherapy is usually recommended as part of your rehabilitation.

Complications are uncommon. They include infection, temporary numbness and injury to surrounding blood vessels and nerves.

Ankle arthroscopy timeframe

Your recovery period depends on what condition was treated and the severity of the damage that was present.

Our Specialists in Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will discuss your recovery timeframe before any procedure is performed.