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Arthroscopy of the ankle is a less invasive surgical technique performed through small incisions that give full access to a joint. This involves placing a telescopic camera (the diameter of a drinking straw) and small tools into the joint while watching the surgery on a television monitor. As with most technological devices, a unique skill set is required to use the instruments effectively. The obvious advantages to arthroscopy over traditional techniques are the smaller incisions that permit early range of motion (often in the same day), as well as a reduction in postoperative recovery time with less pain and swelling.
This technique, employed by the Ankle & Foot Clinic of Everett after conservative therapies have failed, can be used for the treatment of joint adhesions, small joint fractures, bone spurring, and soft tissue build-up, which, as a result of repetitive injury, can clog the joint.
Typically, patients are non-weightbearing for 1-2 weeks to permit the small incisions to fully heal, slowly increasing activities as tolerated for the next 4-6 weeks, until a return to full activities can be accomplished.
The person who may benefit most from undergoing an ankle arthroscopy procedure is that individual who has suffered a twisting ankle injury and felt that their ankle has never been 'quite right' since. Prolonged repetitive activity when playing demanding sports like soccer or basketball can cause a gradual build-up of tissue without obvious injury. It is not unusual to have minimal pain with casual activity and immediate discomfort with exercise or long walks where the ankle becomes swollen and painful.
After surgery, in most instances, we strongly discourage placement into a cast to allow for immediate range of motion activities, especially if scar tissue was found within the ankle. This early motion helps to prevent return of the adhesions and promote faster recovery.
The photos show chronic synovitis from repetitive injury and a joint adhesion from a moderate ankle sprain (upper right); subtalar joint arthroscopy (the joint below the ankle joint) and a series of images of an ankle joint with a bone-cartilage fracture that is causing irritation within the joint (bottom photos).
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