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Ankle arthroscopy

Arthroscopy of the AnkleWhat is an arthroscopy of the ankle?

An arthroscopy (also called keyhole surgery) allows your surgeon to see inside your ankle using a camera inserted through small cuts in the skin. Your surgeon can diagnose problems such as damage to the joint surface or ligaments and arthritis.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The aim of keyhole surgery is to confirm exactly what the problem is and in many cases to treat the problem at the same time. The main benefit of an ankle arthroscopy is less pain afterwards and a quicker recovery.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Problems inside the ankle can often be diagnosed using a MRI scan. However, you may then need an arthroscopy to treat the problem.

What does the operation involve?

The operation usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. A variety of anaesthetic techniques is possible. 

Your surgeon will insert a camera through small cuts around your ankle (see figure 1) and will examine the inside of your ankle for damage to the joint surfaces and ligaments. They will wash out any loose material caused by wear of the joint surfaces and remove any spurs of bone or swelling of the lining of your ankle joint.

If you have torn your ankle ligaments, you may need a reconstruction operation.

What complications can happen?

Complications of anaesthesia

Your anaesthetist will be able to discuss with you the possible complications of having an anaesthetic.

General complications

  •     Pain
  •     Bleeding
  •     Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  •     Unsightly scarring of your skin
  •     Blood clots
  •     Difficulty passing urine

Specific complications

  •     Damage to nerves around the ankle
  •     Compartment syndrome, where the calf muscles swell and get tight
  •     Infection in the ankle joint
  •     Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the ankle (complex regional pain syndrome)

How soon will I recover?

  • You should be able to go home the same day.
  • It is common for the ankle to be a little swollen for a few weeks. Walking can be uncomfortable.
  • Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
  • Most people make a good recovery and can return to normal activities.


Author: Mr Stephen Milner DM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)
Illustrations: Illustration Copyright ©

Copyright © 2017 EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Horder Healthcare.

The intellectual property rights to the information belong exclusively to EIDO Healthcare Limited. You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use. The information should not replace any advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

Issued June 2017 | Expires end of May 2018

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