Ankle Arthroscopy

Ankle Arthroscopy Overview

Minimally invasive ankle arthroscopy affords a close up view of the joint and possible intervention without needing larger incisions and prolonged recovery times. It is performed as an outpatient procedure under anaesthetic, and can be used for treatment of loose bodies, tissue impingement, cartilage damage, and minor arthritis. Crutches are used for several weeks after surgery.

Ankle Arthroscopy Details

Problems of the ankle joint can develop from injury, wear and tear, or sometimes without a recognized cause. These can involve bone, cartilage, or ligaments. Besides fractures and sprains, these include instability, arthritis, impingement, loose bodies, and joint surface defects. Some conditions can be addressed with minimally invasive arthroscopy, or “scoping” of the ankle. This affords a close up view of the joint and potential intervention via small instruments.

Diagnosis of various ankle problems is aided by X-rays, MRI, and sometimes CT scan. As the ankle is a relatively small joint that must withstand concentrated weight bearing forces and mechanical strain, a small abnormality can cause a relatively significant dysfunction. Sometimes ankle arthroscopy can be helpful in addressing these, though it does not offer as wide a range of treatment opportunities as arthroscopy of the shoulder or knee.

Ankle arthroscopy is primarily beneficial in treating loose bodies, defects of the joint cartilage (called osteochondritis dissecans) which can occur either spontaneously or from injury, or soft tissue impingement. Occasionally it can used for cleaning out debris from a previous injury, or removing inflamed joint lining tissue. It has a lesser role in treating arthritic ankle conditions and is not typically used to treat other smaller joints of the foot.

The procedure is carried out as an outpatient procedure under spinal or general anaesthetic. Usually two small incisions at the front of the ankle are used, passing a pencil-sized scope through one to provide a magnified screen image, and small instruments through the other to do the intervention in the joint. The button hole incisions are closed with stitches and injected with long acting freezing. The patient usually uses crutches for the first week or two after surgery. Physiotherapy is not usually needed.

Complications after ankle arthroscopy are rare, but include anaesthetic complications, infection, persistent wound drainage, and blood vessel or nerve damage.