The surgeon makes several small incisions around the ankle joint and inserts a narrow fiber optic scope (called an arthroscope) to examine the condition of the joint. Tiny instruments are used to clean the joint area of foreign or inflamed tissue and bone spurs. This minimally invasive approach offers numerous benefits to patients including less muscle and tissue trauma, less bleeding, less pain and a much faster recovery. In most cases, it is performed as an outpatient procedure and patients go home the same day.
The ankle joint enables you to move your foot up and down. It is formed by the connection of three bones. The top of the talus (the bone that connects the ankle and the foot) fits inside a socket at the lower end of the tibia (shinbone) and the fibula (the small bone of the lower leg). The bottom of the talus sits on the heel bone.
When is surgery recommended?
If you have foot or ankle pain that limits your everyday activities and all non-surgical methods of treatment have failed, including weight loss, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, physical therapy, and custom orthotics and braces, then you should consider ankle arthroscopy.
The procedure may be helpful in the early stages of arthritis. Patients with more advanced or end-stage arthritis may require fusion surgery (arthrodesis) or even total ankle replacement. It’s important that you are carefully screened by an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist to determine the most appropriate treatment.
Ankle arthroscopy is also the simplest surgical treatment for osteochondral lesions of the talus (the bottom bone of the ankle joint). These injuries range from mild bruising to more severe damage such as blistering of the cartilage layers, cyst-like lesions within the bone, or fracture of the cartilage and bone layers.
What is the recovery time?
Ankle arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure with numerous benefits, including a faster recovery time. The typical recovery period is now weeks rather than months. If rehabilitation is necessary, it usually begins immediately after surgery and includes special exercises to restore range of motion, strength and flexibility in the ankle. As with all surgical procedures, specific recovery time varies by patient and demand.