Arthroscopic surgery on the foot and ankle may be prescribed to confirm a diagnosis or perform a surgical procedure within a joint. The procedure uses a small instrument and other devices that penetrate the skin without causing major traumatic surgery.
Tiny cameras often are used during arthroscopic surgery to help the surgeon accurately find the area on which to operate. Arthroscopy reduces the risk of infection and swelling, and healing times as well.
Ankle arthroscopy is surgery that uses a tiny camera and surgical tools to examine or repair the tissue inside or around your ankle. The camera is called an arthroscope. The procedure allows the doctor to detect problems and make repairs to your ankle without making larger cuts in the skin and tissue. This means that you may have less pain and recover more quickly than open surgery.
You will receive general anesthesia before this surgery. This means you will be asleep and unable to feel pain.
During the procedure, the surgeon does the following:
- Inserts the arthroscope into your ankle through a small incision. The scope is connected to a video monitor in the operating room. This allows the surgeon to view the inside of your ankle.
- Inspects all the tissues of your ankle. These tissues include cartilage, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
- Repairs any damaged tissue. To do this, your surgeon makes 1 to 2 more small incisions and inserts other instruments through them. A tear in a muscle, tendon, or cartilage is fixed. Any damaged tissue is removed.
At the end of the surgery, the incisions will be closed with stitches and covered with a dressing (bandage). Most surgeons take pictures from the video monitor during the procedure to show you what they found and what repairs they made.
Your surgeon may need to do open surgery if there is a lot of damage. Open surgery means you will have a large incision so that the surgeon can get directly to your bones and tissue.
Why the Procedure is Performed
Arthroscopy may be recommended for these ankle problems:
- Ankle pain: Arthroscopy allows the surgeon to explore what is causing your ankle pain.
- Ankle synovitis: After an ankle sprain or injury some people develop soft growths in the ankle or soft masses which get pinched between the bones.
- Ankle impingement: Tissues in your ankle can become swollen and sore from overuse. This makes it hard to move the joint. Arthroscopy can remove the tissue so you can move your joint.
- Scar tissue: This can form after an injury to the ankle. This surgery can remove scar tissue.
- Cartilage injuries: This surgery can be used to diagnose or repair cartilage and bone injuries.
- Loose fragments: These are pieces of bone or cartilage inside the ankle that can cause the joint to lock up. During arthroscopy these fragments can be removed.
Risk for anesthesia and surgery in general are:
- Allergic reaction to medicines
- Breathing problems
- Bleeding, blood clot, or infection
Risk for ankle arthroscopy are:
- Failure of surgery to relieve symptoms
- Recurrent pain months or years later
- Weakness of the ankle
- Injury to tendon, blood vessels
- Numbness or painful nerve
After the Procedure
You can usually go home the same day after you recover from the anesthesia. You should have someone drive you home.
Arthroscopy uses small cuts in the skin. Compared to open surgery, you may have:
- Less pain and stiffness
- Fewer complications
- Faster recovery
The small cuts will heal quickly, and you may be able to resume your normal activities in a few weeks. But, if a lot of tissue in your ankle had to be repaired, it may take 6-8 weeks to heal. How quickly you heal depends on how complicated the surgery was.
You may be shown how to do gentle exercises as you heal. Or, your surgeon may recommend that you see a physical therapist to help you regain the full use of your ankle.