What Is Ankle Arthroscopy?
No matter what kind of surgery is performed, one of the most important factors for success and recovery is how invasive it is. Put simply, the body encounters a great deal of stress when it’s cut open, and it has to work hard to heal itself post-operation. This being the case, surgeons are always working on ways to minimize the impact of their procedures. And it was with this in mind that ankle arthroscopy was developed.
A procedure that has a wide range of applications, ankle arthroscopy involves using a specialized camera device and tools to both diagnose and operate on the ankle. Compared to other surgical approaches, smaller incisions need to be made, so, overall, it’s less-invasive and disruptive. This means that recovery time is quicker and there’s a relatively reduced risk of complications.  It’s no wonder, then, that this treatment has become more and more widespread.
Why Ankle Arthroscopy?
This procedure is unique in that it can be used both as a means of diagnosis and treatment. It will be called upon for a variety of conditions of the ankle, including:
When ankles are severely injured, you may end up with loose debris, usually pieces of chipped bone or parts of cartilage, floating around in the area. Arthroscopy helps doctors locate and eventually remove these.
The ligaments which connect muscle and bone in the ankle can become torn or damaged after a severe ankle sprain. In some cases, ankle arthroscopy will be used to fully evaluate the extent of damage and guide the next steps of treatment.
In many cases, aging and degenerative conditions in the ankle will lead to structural damage in the area. Cartilage may erode, tendinitis might develop, or healing may be improper from prior injury. Ankle arthroscopy is a viable approach to assessing damage and even allowing for treatment. 
What’s particularly exciting to orthopedic surgeons working today is that they’re finding more and more uses for this approach. As research continues, it will continue to emerge as a viable and highly successful treatment option.
When Should It Be Considered?
It’s ultimately up to you and your doctor to decide whether ankle arthroscopy is the way to go. Patients should think about it if they’re feeling unexplainable pain, swelling, stiffness, or overall instability of the ankle. It’s also sometimes recommended when patients complain of feeling “popping” or “locking” in the region. 
As with all surgeries, a great deal of evaluation occurs before treatment. Not only will the doctor take into consideration medical history and the reason for complaint, but they’ll also have X-rays done to get a sense of the situation inside.
What’s Surgery Like?
While ankle arthroscopy is significantly less-invasive than other procedures, it’s still quite an undertaking. Here’s a quick breakdown of what occurs: 
Prior to Surgery:
In most cases, you’ll be asked not to eat or drink on the day of the procedure. In addition, you may need to stop taking certain medications, such as those that thin blood (like Aspirin). Given the nature of surgery, a ride home should be arranged.
Ankle arthroscopy is performed when the patient is under sedation, so you’ll have an IV hooked up to you. A great deal of anesthetic will be used in the appropriate area, and six small incisions will be made when you’re asleep. These are used to give the special camera and tools access and allow treatment.
Patients are placed in a recovery room and monitored until they wake up. Depending on the work that was done, you’ll either need crutches or an immobilizer as your ankle heals. When arthroscopy is used for more extensive work, such as structural repair, a cast may be needed. In the earlier going, the ankle should be iced and elevated to reduce swelling, and pain medicine may be prescribed.
What Are The Expected Outcomes?
Ankle arthroscopy is largely well-tolerated and safe, but there certainly a few risks: 
- Infection of the area
- Nerve damage
- Anesthesia risks
- Excessive bleeding
Surgeons will do everything they can to mitigate these, and the good news is that study after study have shown ankle arthroscopy to be highly successful as treatment.  While there will be some expected differences based on the condition being treated, it’s an approach that minimizes the negative aspects of other types of surgery.
If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, ankle arthroscopy just may be part of what gets you back on track. Employing the latest in medical technology, this procedure has helped improve the prognosis of countless patients. And as research continues, the outlook will only get brighter.
If you’re interested in learning more about ankle arthroscopy, or orthopedic treatments in general, talk to a Patient Care Manager at Onward Orthopedics. They’re part of a dynamic and dedicated team of surgeons and experts that have helped countless patients find the treatments they need. Call them at (800) 577-1693.
- William C. Shiel Jr., FACR. 2017. “Ankle Arthroscopy: Facts On The Procedure & Recovery”. Emedicinehealth. Accessed April 14 2017. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/ankle_arthroscopy/article_em.htm.
- “Ankle Arthroscopy: Background, Indications, Contraindications”. 2017. Medscape.Com. Accessed April 14 2017. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1356046-overview.