Ankle arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that orthopaedic surgeons use to treat problems in the ankle joint. Ankle arthroscopy uses a thin fiber-optic camera (arthroscope) that can magnify and transmit images of the ankle to a video screen.
Ankle arthroscopy allows the surgeon to see inside the ankle with small incisions. This minimizes problems sometimes encountered with large incisions, such as infection and pain. The procedure can be performed as an outpatient because of its minimally invasive nature. Patients may be able to begin rehabilitation sooner, and they may be able to return to high-level activities such as sports more quickly.
Ankle arthroscopy is generally performed as an outpatient surgery under general anesthesia with or without a regional pain block or epidural anesthetic with sedation. After adequate anesthesia is established, a tourniquet is applied to the leg, and the leg is prepped and draped in a sterile fashion. Mechanical distraction devices are sometimes used to help surgeons temporarily enlarge the potential space of the ankle. After the foot and ankle are appropriately positioned, at least two approximately 0.5mm incisions are made in the ankle. These incisions become the entry sites into the ankle, or portals, for the arthroscopic camera and instruments. These portals are placed strategically in an effort to avoid vessels and nerves. The incisions are made in the front or back of the ankle, or a combination of these. Sterile fluid is then allowed to flow through the ankle to further open the joint. The camera and instruments can then be exchanged between portals to perform the surgery. At the conclusion of the procedure, small sutures are placed in the skin to close the portals. A sterile compressive dressing, and sometimes a splint or boot, are then applied. The patient is brought to the recovery area and is usually discharged home the same day with specific weightbearing and dressing care instructions.