Don’t let your ankle pain get in the way of your life.
If you have been experiencing terrible ankle pain, your doctor may suggest having an arthroscopy procedure to help diagnose the problem.
What is an arthroscopy of your ankle?
An arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) allows your surgeon to see inside your ankle using a camera inserted through small cuts on your skin. Your surgeon can diagnose problems such as damage to the joint surface or ligaments, and arthritis.
What are the benefits of surgery?
The aim is to confirm exactly what the problem is and for many people the problem can be treated at the same time.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Problems inside your ankle can often be diagnosed using a magnetic scan (MRI scan) but you may then need an arthroscopy to treat the problem.
What does the procedure involve?
Various anaesthetic techniques are possible, with the operation usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.
Your surgeon will examine your ankle ligaments while you are under the anaesthetic and your muscles are completely relaxed. They will insert a small camera through one or more small cuts around your ankle.
Additionally, they will wash out any loose material caused by wear of the joint surfaces. Your surgeon will remove any spurs of bone or swelling of the lining of your ankle joint. If you have torn your ankle ligaments, you may need a reconstruction operation.
What complications can happen?
Like all surgical procedures, there are some levels of risks to consider. Some of these can be serious and can even cause death. However, you can speak to your doctor about the following general and specific complications that may worry you.
General complications of any operation
It is good for patients to be aware of the possible complications that could occur:
- Difficulty passing urine
- Unsightly scarring of your skin
- Infection of the surgical site (wound)
- Blood clot in your leg
- Blood clot in your lung
Specific complications of this operation
In addition, it is important for patients to be aware of more specific complications:
- Compartment syndrome, where the calf muscles swell and get tight
- Infection in your ankle joint
- Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your ankle
- Damage to nerves around your ankle
How soon will I recover?
Fortunately, you should be able to go home the same day. Although, it is common for your ankle to be a little swollen for a few weeks.
Walking can be uncomfortable, and you may need to take painkillers to help relieve your pain. Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice. The good news is that most people make a good recovery and can return to normal activities.
Arthroscopy allows your surgeon to diagnose and treat some common problems affecting your ankle, without the need for a large cut on your skin. This may reduce the amount of pain you feel and speed up your recovery.
Author: Mr Stephen Milner DM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)