An ankle arthroscopy is a procedure that involves making two or three small puncture wounds usually in front of the ankle.
A small arthroscope (three to five millimetres in diameter) is inserted into the ankle allowing the surgeon to see and operate inside the ankle joint.
A number of different soft tissue and bony conditions can be treated arthroscopically, for example, the removal of bony spurs, loose bone fragments or shaving of soft tissue inflammation (synovitis). Success and recovery rates vary depending upon the specific condition being treated and will be discussed with you prior to surgery.
Ankle arthroscopy is usually carried out under general anaesthesia, either as a day case or in some instances as an overnight stay in hospital.
Gently mobilise the ankle as soon as able (this prevents stiffness and strengthens muscles). A physiotherapist may assess walking and explain exercises that are effective to aid recovery. Refer to the end of the leaflet for an exercise regime.
Wound(s) must be kept dry for up to two or three weeks following the procedure. Keep wound sites covered. A mepore dressing will be in place following the procedure. However, it is possible to take a shower after 48 hours providing a waterproof dressing is applied. Avoid taking a bath.
What can I expect after an ankle arthroscopy?
Following the procedure, a padded bandage will be applied. You will usually be advised to remove the outer bandages (but not the wound dressing) about 48 hours following surgery. The puncture wounds will have a stitch in place – this is to keep the edges of the incisions together. Stitches are removed in clinic about 14 days following the procedure. It is common for the joint to become inflamed following the arthroscopy. It is advisable to elevate the leg and limit the amount of walking for two weeks following the procedure, then gradually increase as you become more able. After some procedures, a cast may be applied to rest the ankle for two weeks following the surgery; crutches may be required for a short duration.
Are there any major risks with an ankle arthroscopy?
Infection: There is a small risk (1 in 600). This is increased in patients who are diabetic, suffer from rheumatoid disease and those who smoke. The surgeon may decline to perform surgery unless you refrain from smoking.
Scarring: any type of surgery will leave a scar, occasionally this may be painful and inflamed.
Numbness or tingling: This can occur on top of the foot as a result of minor damage to small nerves. Often it is temporary; however, numbness or a sensitised area can be permanent.