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What is ankle and foot arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy of the foot and ankle is used to examine and treat joint conditions. The procedure uses an arthroscope, a thin fiber-optic camera, which enables the surgeon to view close-up images of the inside of the ankle and/or foot while working. This usually allows for a less invasive procedure than traditional open surgery, as only a small incision is necessary for the arthroscope, which is about as wide as a drinking straw. 

Why it's done

Among many other conditions, ankle and foot arthroscopy can be used to assess and treat: 

  • Fractures
  • Arthritis
  • Infection
  • Impingement (bony and soft-tissue)
  • Joint instability
  • Bone chips
  • Ligament damage

What to expect?

 Although each procedure varies, generally, arthroscopic surgeries involve the following:

  • Anesthetic is administered – general or regional.
  • A small incision is made in the patient's skin.
  • The arthroscope is inserted through the incision.
  • Other incisions may be made to introduce other small grasping, probing or cutting tools.
  • Light is transmitted via fiber optics at the end of the arthroscope.
  • Information about the interior of the joint is transmitted to a screen.
  • Corrective surgery, if necessary, may be performed during the initial diagnostic procedure.
  • Sutures will be used to close the skin and allow for appropriate healing.
  • Dressings or bandages may be applied to the postoperative area.

Recovery

The small wounds created by the arthroscope and probing tool(s) may take several days to heal. Recovery time depends on the extent of the surgery and on the individual patient. However, most arthroscopic surgery is done on an outpatient basis, and patients are allowed to go home within hours after the surgery. Some patients resume daily activities and return to work or school within a few days. Athletes and other patients in good physical condition may return to athletic activities within a few weeks, under the care of their physician.

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