An ankle arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to view and repair the inside of your ankle using an arthroscope, which is a small camera connected to a video monitor. The arthroscope is inserted through small incisions made on the skin.
An ankle arthroscopy aims to diagnose and treat ankle issues that are causing pain, stiffness, and discomfort, such as ligament damage, fractures, or sprains. Ligaments are like rubber bands that hold the bones together. When they become damaged, your ankle is unable to function properly and rotate smoothly. Other common ankle conditions this procedure can address include overuse of the ankle joint, arthritis, trauma injuries, ankle impingement, or bone deformities that are causing ankle instability.
Ankle arthroscopy is a common and effective procedure used to treat a wide range of ankle conditions. Compared to open surgery, ankle arthroscopy is a less invasive procedure with minimal downtime for the patient.
How does ankle arthroscopy work?
During an ankle arthroscopy, the orthopaedic surgeon makes a small incision in the skin around the joint. Then, the arthroscope is inserted. Other tools needed to fix and repair torn ligaments or other connective tissue damage in the ankle will also be inserted through additional tiny incisions. During this procedure, loose bone fragments can also be removed.
The arthroscope allows the surgeon to view the joint clearly as there is a light and camera attached to it. You will not feel any pain during the procedure as it is typically conducted under general anaesthesia. This type of surgery normally takes an hour to complete, but the exact duration depends on the severity of the injury and the complexity of the case.
Benefits of ankle arthroscopy
Treats and fixes damaged ligaments in the ankle
Eliminates pain, stiffness, and discomfort
Fixes bone deformities in the ankle
Improves stability and flexibility of the joint
What conditions does ankle arthroscopy treat?
Ankle arthroscopy can be used to treat the following conditions:
Fractures: ankle arthroscopy can be used to treat ankle fractures or broken ankle bones.
Torn ligaments: ankle sprains can result in overstretched and partial or complete ligament tears. Ankle arthroscopy can aid in the treatment of ankle sprains.
Arthritis: ankle arthritis is often a painful and debilitating bone disorder. Ankle arthroscopy can be used to aid in its treatment.
Bone deformities: bone deformities can be treated with ankle arthroscopy.
Ankle impingements:ankle impingements, also known as footballer’s ankle, occur as a result of compression of the soft or hard bony tissues of the ankle.
Tendonitis: ankle tendonitis, also known as peroneal tendonitis, is an inflammation of the tendons in the ankle.
What results can I expect?
After an ankle arthroscopy, you should be able to go home the same day or the next day. For the next few weeks, you should be careful not to put weight or pressure on your ankle. It is recommended to ice and elevate the ankle, and keep the incisions clean and dry. You will likely be prescribed painkillers to help ease any discomfort or swelling associated with the procedure, which is common.
Additionally, you may have to wear a splint on your ankle to keep it in place for a few weeks, use crutches, and attend physiotherapy to regain strength and flexibility. You will be required to visit your orthopaedist for follow-up appointments to monitor your recovery. Many patients reach full recovery in 4-6 weeks.
Results will vary from person to person, depending on the treatment area, severity of the issue, and your overall health. Your orthopaedist can give you a better idea of what to expect based on your individual needs and circumstances.
How many treatment sessions are needed?
Only 1 procedure at a time is typically needed for ankle arthroscopy.
However, you may need to attend physiotherapy sessions and follow-up appointments for several weeks afterward. The exact duration of physiotherapy depends on the individual and recovery progress.
Your orthopaedic surgeon will be able to provide you with a bespoke treatment plan, tailored to your needs and requirements.
Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.