Ankle Arthroscopy - All You Need To Know

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive technique used to diagnose and/or treat various conditions affecting the joints, such as the ankle joint. Over the years, ankle arthroscopy has become a common orthopedic procedure performed to manage various ankle disorders, such as those caused by degenerative diseases, trauma, and neoplastic conditions. 

Arthroscopic surgery of the ankle joints is becoming the standard for most surgeons since it allows them to perform complex procedures with minimal risks of complications. 

If you have an upcoming ankle arthroscopy, then read on to gain some reassurance about the procedure, how you can prepare for it, and the recovery timeline. 

What is ankle arthroscopy?

An ankle arthroscopy is a surgical technique wherein a surgeon uses a tiny, flexible tube with a light and a video camera. The device is called an arthroscope. It is used to view the inside of the ankle joint on a large screen to examine and repair the injured area using specialized tools. All bone and soft tissue reparations may be done by creating only small incisions the size of a keyhole. 

Since ankle arthroscopy only utilizes 2-3 tiny incisions, it provides significant medical benefits over traditional ankle surgery. This includes the following:

  • Minimal stress and soft tissue trauma
  • Minimal swelling and pain
  • Quicker recovery and healing time
  • Little to no risk of complications, such as infection.

Furthermore, ankle arthroscopy is known to be a safe and effective procedure. The success of an operation will depend on many factors, such as the patient's age, the severity of the condition, and the technique used. But generally, most patients who undergo the procedure achieve a success rate of 85 to 95%.

When do you need an ankle arthroscopy?

The ankle joint is made up of connected bones from the leg (tibia and fibula) and the foot (talus). It is surrounded by ligaments and other muscle structures, which allow movement and provide stability.

However, these structures can also sustain injuries or develop joint disorders as a result of wear and tear, trauma, or overuse. Most ankle problems begin with a seemingly simple ankle pain, which can become severe and may then develop other debilitating symptoms. 

An orthopedic specialist may use ankle arthroscopy to diagnose and treat various conditions, such as the following:

These conditions are typically managed using non-surgical methods first, such as medications, physical therapy, and steroid injections. But if there’s no improvement for at least 3 to 6 months, then your orthopedic specialist may recommend ankle arthroscopy.

How to prepare for the surgery?

Before the surgery, your doctor will perform a series of pre-operative tests to determine if you are healthy enough to undergo the procedure. This will include medical history review, blood tests, and imaging exams.

Your doctor will also instruct you to stop smoking, drinking alcohol, and intake of specific medications, such as blood thinners. You might also be instructed not to eat or drink for several hours before the procedure.

Lastly, someone must drive you home and be with you for a few days. Additionally, you should make home and work arrangements so you can rest and heal without hassle once you get discharged.

What happens during an ankle arthroscopy?

An anesthesia provider will administer a medication that will make you fall asleep or feel numb in the lower extremities. This will help keep you safe and comfortable during the procedure. Your surgeon will then start the surgery by:

  • Making 2-3 half-inch incisions that will serve as “portals” where the arthroscope and specialized tools will enter. 
  • Letting sterile fluid flow into the joint for better visualization.
  • Inspecting the joint and its surrounding soft tissues to determine the root cause of the ankle problem.
  • Performing different techniques needed to manage the condition, such as ankle debridement, repairing torn ligaments, or removing bone spurs.
  • Closing the incisions using stitches and placing a bandage on top to protect the healing wound.

After the procedure, you will be transferred into a recovery room, where healthcare professionals will monitor your vital signs. Your doctor will then discharge you once the anesthesia wears off and when they deem you capable of continuing recovery at home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is ankle arthroscopy an outpatient procedure?

Yes. Most patients can go home a few hours after the procedure. 

Is ankle arthroscopy painful?

You won’t feel anything during the procedure. But once the anesthesia wears off during your recovery, it’s normal to feel pain, discomfort, and swelling. Fortunately, your doctor will prescribe the right medications and instruct you about proper aftercare to reduce your symptoms. 

How long does the surgery take?

Normally, ankle arthroscopy only takes at least one to two hours. But your surgeon can take longer than expected, especially for severe and complex cases. The length of the procedure will also depend on the kind of ankle condition you have. 

When is it safe to walk?

Generally, doctors instruct patients to rest and elevate the operated ankle for at least three days. They may also recommend the use of crutches for at least a week to provide support and aid in weight bearing. You will also need to start physical therapy after two to three days of the surgery. 

Most patients are deemed safe to walk freely after two to three weeks of recovery. You may also return to your daily routines, such as work and driving, after ten days. However, your doctor will be the one to clear you when it is safe to go back to intensive workouts or sports.

How long will recovery take after an ankle arthroscopy?

Recovery may vary from person to person. But most patients achieve complete healing after 12 weeks or three months. 

panther creek orthopedics

Where to find the best outpatient orthopedic surgery center

The Orthopaedic Surgery Center of Panther Creek is home to the best physicians and surgeons specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of various orthopedic conditions. Our advanced techniques, partnered with state-of-the-art equipment, ensure that each patient receives the highest quality of care and services.

You can trust our board-certified fellowship-trained surgeons to create an appropriate treatment plan to address your ankle condition. We strive to help you recover with minimal pain to regain maximum mobility. 

Contact us to learn more about ankle arthroscopy and other orthopedic procedures.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

outpatient orthopedic surgery cary
6715 McCrimmon Parkway
Suite 205 A 
Cary, NC 27519
Monday – Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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