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Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is used to diagnose and treat problems in the foot and ankle joints. The word “arthroscopy” comes from the Greek words “arthro” (joint) and “skopein” (to look).
This surgical procedure involves making very small incisions in the skin around the affected joint and inserting a tiny camera, called an arthroscope. The images from the arthroscope are then projected onto a television screen, so that the surgeon can see them.
Arthroscopic surgery of the foot and ankle is becoming increasingly popular because it offers several advantages over traditional “open” surgery.
These advantages include less pain, less swelling, shorter hospital stays, and quicker recoveries.
In addition, because arthroscopic surgery is less invasive, there is a lower risk of complications and infection.
Arthroscopic surgery can be used to treat several different problems in the foot and ankle, including:
- Ankle impingement syndrome
- Osteochondral lesions in the ankle
- Tendon tears
- Plantar fasciitis
- Gastrocnemius recession (lengthening procedure to improve range of motion in the ankle)
- Scar tissue removal
- Ankle ligament repair
Arthroscopy Surgical Procedure- What to Expect
Surgery will be done in the operating room under anesthesia. You will be sleeping during the procedure.
During arthroscopic surgery, the surgeon will make one or more small incisions called “portals” around the joint. A sterile solution will then be injected into the joint to expand it and provide better visibility. The arthroscope and other surgical instruments are then inserted into the portals.
The surgeon will then repair or remove the damaged tissue in the foot/ankle through these small incisions.
In some cases, there may be extensive damage in the joint that requires a larger incision. In these cases, your surgeon will convert the minimally invasive arthroscopy to an open surgical procedure to be able to fix the problem.
After the surgery is completed, the incisions will be closed with sutures (thread) or staples. A splint or cast may also be applied to stabilize the joint. You can go home after the surgery.
Recovery From Ankle Arthroscopy Surgery- What to Expect
Depending on the surgery, your doctor will allow you to bear weight in a cast boot or splint for the first 4 weeks after surgery before transitioning to athletic shoes. In some cases, you may be able to transition into athletic shoes and resume normal activities sooner.
Make sure to keep your cast dry while you are in the shower by using a cast protector. You can also use crutches to help stabilize yourself while bearing weight in the cast. You can buy cast protectors and standard aluminum crutches on Amazon.
Physical therapy may be needed after certain surgeries (such as ankle ligament repairs) to improve range of motion, decrease pain, and improve balance. Physical therapy is needed 3 times a week for 1 month.
What Are the Complications of Arthroscopy?
- Infection: Infection is always a risk with any type of surgical procedure. However, the risk of infection is low with arthroscopic ankle surgery. This is because smaller incisions are made with arthroscopic surgeries.
- Nerve Injury: Nerve injury can occur. This can cause numbness, burning, and tingling sensation in the foot. Nerve injury can be temporary or permanent.
- Joint stiffness: Joint stiffness can occur following surgery. This is especially true if you are immobilized in a cast for prolonged periods.
- Injury to blood vessels: Although the risk is low, injury can occur to the blood vessels during surgery. This can lead to blood clot formation and even local tissue death.
Can You Drive After an Ankle Arthroscopy?
Most people can resume driving 2-4 weeks after the procedure. This will be dependent on your situation and whether your doctor has cleared you to drive. Make sure to avoid driving while taking any narcotic pain medications.
How Do You Go Upstairs After Ankle Surgery?
Use your leg that has not been operated on to lead when going up the stairs. Hold onto a handrail when going up the stairs. This will reduce the likelihood of falls. Here’s a helpful video by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust on how to ascend and descend the stairs safely.
Arthroscopic surgery of the foot and ankle has been done for many years to help treat foot and ankle problems. It allows for shorter recovery times with less scarring. Ask your Podiatrist if arthroscopic surgery would be a good option for you.
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