Arthroscopy (keyhole surgery)

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What is ankle arthroscopy?

Ankle keyhole surgery or arthroscopy is the process of inserting a small telescope and instruments through miniscule incisions in the ankle joint, so your consultant can examine and treat it. Images of the inside of the joint are displayed on a monitor in the operating theatre.

Why might I need an ankle arthroscopy?

If you are suffering from ankle arthritisosteochondral injuries or require ankle fusion surgery on an ankle fracture or ankle sprain/instability or the surgeon needs to examine and repair tendons and ligaments, then you may need to have this minimally invasive procedure.

What does ankle arthroscopy involve?

Arthroscopy is usually a day case procedure. Procedures performed using arthroscopy include:

Benefits include:

  • Less scarring
  • Quicker healing with reduced risk of infection
  • Less time in hospital
  • Quicker rehabilitation
  • Better results for many procedures, including ankle fusion surgery

Surgery always carries some risk, including blood vessel or nerve damage, but the advantages outweigh the risks.

Attending a pre-assessment screening is good way of maximising the benefits of your surgery. At your screening, you’ll have your blood tested to assess your Vitamin D levels; swabs will be taken to check for infection or other issues; you’ll be weighed and have a chance to talk through your medical history, to highlight any potential anaesthetics issues.

It is highly recommended that you stop smoking at least eight weeks before surgery because smoking affects your ability to heal and leads to health issues, such as greater risk of pulmonary embolism (blood clots forming in the lungs) or deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the calf).

How long does it take to recover?

After your surgery, your ankle will be bandaged, and these bandages remain on for two weeks. You will be shown how to walk using crutches and will be given a special sandal to aid your recovery. Most patients are able to go home on the same day as their operation.

You should try to rest your foot, keeping as much weight off it as possible, and keeping it raised above the level of your heart whenever you can, especially in the first week after your operation.

Once this week has passed, your pain levels should have reduced greatly, and you can start walking short distances, for example to a car. Depending on your job, you may be able to return to work during the second week, however if it involves heavy manual labour you will need to wait a month after your surgery before you can resume work.

Once your wound has completely dried up and healed, you can go swimming and apply moisturiser to the wound itself to reduce scarring. Around three to four weeks after your surgery, patients are able to resume low impact exercise.

What is the long-term impact of ankle arthroscopy?

The swelling in your foot and ankle following your operation will disappear within three months of your surgery. Most people are able to return to their normal sporting activities several months after their operation.