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Arthroscopy is a procedure in which a miniature telescope is inserted through a two centimetre incision over a joint - for example the hip, knee, ankle or shoulder.

Other small incisions are made to introduce instruments to examine the joint, remove fluid or make repairs in the area.

What happens during ankle arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is very often performed as a day case with the patient under general anaesthetic. The procedure usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

Your surgeon will make several small incisions (cuts) in your ankle. They will insert a tiny camera through one of the incisions to examine any problems in the area. They will insert other instruments to wash out any loose material caused by wear and tear of the joint surfaces and remove any bone spurs or swelling of the lining of your ankle joint. They may be able to make small repairs to torn cartilage through the small incisions. Your surgeon will close the incisions with stitches or steri-strips. Your ankle may be bandaged.

Going home after ankle arthroscopy

You should be able to go home the day of your arthroscopy. You will not be able to drive so be sure and arrange for someone to take you home. 

Your ankle may be swollen for several weeks. Walking may be uncomfortable so you may need crutches. Painkillers may help ease the pain in the first few weeks. 

A physiotherapist will show you exercises to help you regain your muscle strength and get moving again. 

You should keep the area clean and dry until your incisions are well healed. You will need to return to have your stitches removed 10 to 14 days after your procedure. 

Everyone heals at a different pace. Your surgeon or physiotherapist will advise you about when you can return to normal activities. You will be able to drive again when you can make an emergency stop without damaging your ankle. Please discuss your return to driving and to work with your surgeon. 

Depending on what repairs are made during your arthroscopy most patients return can return to strenuous activity and heavy lifting six to eight weeks after surgery.

What are the complications of arthroscopy?

Any surgical procedure may result in complications. These could include:

General complications:

Specific complications in arthroscopy may include:

  • Damage to nerves around the ankle
  • Infection in the ankle joint
  • Bleeding in the joint causing pain and swelling
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the foot (complex regional pain syndrome)
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