What is ankle arthroscopy?

Ankle arthroscopy is an operation which takes place using keyhole surgery. A thin tube incorporating a light and video camera is inserted into the ankle and small instruments are used for the procedure which is required. It helps surgeons to diagnose what might be the problem and on some occasions treat it.

Why do I need an ankle arthroscopy?

Often combined with a scan, an ankle arthroscopy can help to diagnose problems within the ankle, often where an injury has failed to heal. An ankle arthroscopy can be used to:

  • Help conditions such as arthritis and inflammation
  • Remove or repair damaged tissue or bone
  • Remove loose bodies such as fragments of bone or cartilage
  • Take biopsies (small tissue fragments) to help diagnose issues such as infections

What is ankle arthroscopy surgery?

Ankle arthroscopy is usually carried out as a day surgery procedure, which means you will go home on the day of your operation. In more complex situations you may need to stay overnight in hospital.

The procedure is usually carried out under general anaesthetic and the ankle is examined while you are asleep and the muscles are relaxed. The ankle is gently manipulated and fluid is injected in to the joint. Small incisions are made to allow the camera and any instruments to be inserted into the ankle, usually at the front of the ankle. The inside of the ankle is investigated and any necessary treatment is carried out. The ankle is then cleaned and the cuts are stitched, followed by bandaging.

How long does ankle arthroscopy surgery take?

The procedure lasts between 45 and 60 minutes. Once you have recovered from the anaesthetic you can normally get up and walk with crutches and most patients can go home on the day of their surgery. Treated ankles are bandaged to protect the area and to reduce swelling – the bandage must be kept dry at all times. A gauze bandage is applied in the operating theatre and this remains in place for two weeks. There is no plaster cast and you must keep your ankle elevated when sitting down.

What happens after ankle arthroscopy surgery?

The outcomes of ankle arthroscopy are generally good. Your foot and ankle may be swollen for up to three months after surgery. Up to two weeks after surgery you can start working from home but keep your ankle elevated. If you have a heavy manual job it may be a month until you can return to work. You will be given ankle exercises to aid recovery.

By week two your wound should have healed and the stitches removed. This means you can swim, start low impact gym work as well as return to driving. After three to six months you may be able to gradually increase sporting activities, but this will depend on the damage that was caused to your ankle and the treatment carried out during your operation. Flying should be avoided within six weeks of the procedure due to the increased risk of blood clots.

What are the risks and complications of ankle arthroscopy surgery?

Risks are minimal. Potential risks are those related to all types of surgery including infection, injury to nerve and blood vessels, blood clot (deep vein thrombosis) and weakness, swelling or stiffness in the ankle.

Pre-operative assessment:

A pre-operative assessment is our opportunity to ensure that the procedure for which you have been referred is right for you. We’ll explain your treatment to you and makes sure that you are well enough to go ahead with it. It is also your opportunity to meet the team who will care for you and to ask any questions.

We carry out all the necessary tests and examinations in one outpatient session. While this may take several hours, everything is done in one go to save frequent visits before surgery.