Ankle arthroscopies are used to address a wide range of ankle issues. There’s a very low risk of complications, and you’ll be able to go home the same day as your surgery. Most people recover in a few months after an ankle arthroscopy.
Ankle arthroscopy is a surgery used to treat issues inside of your ankle joint. Your surgeon will insert a special tool called an arthroscope into your ankle to identify and repair damage. The arthroscope includes a camera and a light that lets your surgeon see what’s going on inside of your ankle while only making a few small incisions (cuts) in your skin. Your surgeon will also insert any other tools they need during the surgery through additional tiny cuts.
Because the incisions required to perform an ankle arthroscopy are much smaller than other forms of surgery — less than half an inch across in most cases — it’s less stressful on your body than other procedures.
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Anyone with ankle pain or other issues in their ankle joint that hasn’t responded to other treatments is a good candidate for ankle arthroscopy. It can also help people who are having trouble moving properly because of an issue inside of their ankle joint. Typically, your healthcare provider will recommend arthroscopy after other nonsurgical treatments, like steroid injections or physical therapy, haven’t completely solved your issues.
Ankle arthroscopy is an effective, minimally invasive surgery that can treat a wide range of conditions, including:
Ankle arthroscopy is very common, and surgeons are able to treat more conditions than ever before thanks to recent technological advances.
Arthroscopy is becoming a standard procedure as surgeons are able to perform increasingly complex operations with less invasive methods and lower risks.
Before your ankle arthroscopy, you might need to reduce how often you:
During an ankle arthroscopy, your surgeon will make a few small cuts (usually less than half an inch across) in the skin around your ankle and insert the arthroscope into your joint. They’ll make additional tiny incisions to insert other tools they need to repair any damage to your bones or connective tissues. Once they’re able to see inside of your ankle with the arthroscope, your surgeon can repair your joint.
You’ll receive either regional anesthesia near your ankle to make sure you don’t feel pain during the surgery or general anesthesia to put you to sleep during the operation.
Most arthroscopies take around an hour, but the length of your surgery will depend on your unique needs.
There are a few techniques your surgeon can use to complete your arthroscopy, depending on what needs fixed. Debridement is one of the most common. Debridement is how surgeons refer to cleaning up something in your body. In the case of ankle arthroscopy, this means removing damaged tissue, or reshaping your bones to fix impingement or arthritis.
Think about it this way: It doesn’t matter if your kitchen needs a top-to-bottom scrub or just a little tidying. Either way, it still needs cleaned. Whether it takes all afternoon or just a few minutes, the end result is the same: A kitchen that’s spic and span. It’s the same during your arthroscopy. Even if you need more extensive debridement, your surgeon will be able to clean up your joint to fix what’s causing you pain or discomfort.
The more significant your symptoms, the more debridement you’ll likely need. In most cases, it shouldn’t impact your recovery time too much.
Ankle arthroscopy is almost always an outpatient surgery, and you should be able to go home the same day as your procedure.
Your provider or surgeon will go over the results of your surgery and tell you what you need to do to heal and recover.
You may need to:
You’ll probably have to wear a splint on your ankle for a few weeks after your surgery. Your surgeon will tell you when you can start moving your ankle and when you’ll start physical therapy.
Ankle arthroscopy is one of the least invasive surgeries you can have. It lets surgeons identify and repair lots of issues with very little disruption to your body. Even if you have a more complicated underlying condition, your surgeon will still only need to make a few small incisions to correct it. This means you should experience:
Potential complications from ankle arthroscopy include:
Most people recover from an ankle arthroscopy in a few months. Your exact time to heal fully depends on your reason for needing surgery, and how quickly you regain your stability, strength and range of motion.
You’ll also need physical therapy after your arthroscopy. This could be as simple as at-home stretches and exercises you do yourself. Your surgeon or provider will show you how to perform them safely after your surgery. Depending on how complicated your surgery is, you might need to work with a physical therapist to get your ankle back to its usual level of strength and mobility.
You should be able to return to intense exercise and/or sports a few months after surgery, depending on how quickly your ankle heals.
You should be able to return to work or school a few weeks after an ankle arthroscopy — as long as it’s possible to do your job or schoolwork seated. Ask your provider or surgeon how long you should wait before resuming any activity that might put stress on your ankle. Your surgeon may also recommend that you avoid sitting still for too long. You may need to take several short breaks throughout the day to stretch and move about.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Ankle arthroscopy is a safe, effective surgery that will get you back on your feet. It’s used to treat a wide range of ankle issues. Even in more complicated cases, it’s still less invasive than almost any other surgery. It’s one of the most common surgeries performed in the U.S. each year because it’s so helpful for so many people experiencing pain or mobility issues.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/29/2022.
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