The feet and ankles are complex structures of the body that are meant to withstand unbelievable amounts of pressure. There are, however, so many small joints, bones, tendons, and ligaments that ankle and foot injuries are quite common. There are also conditions that can arise from prolonged use and stress on the feet or ankles. Arthritis is a common condition occurring in the feet and ankles that can benefit from arthroscopic surgery.
Arthritic changes can cause pain and make it difficult to walk. Similar symptoms can also be caused by past injuries, presenting as post-traumatic arthritis. While physically debilitating, it is important to know that there are a variety of minimally invasive surgical techniques that can help get you back on your feet.
What is Arthroscopic Surgery?
Arthroscopic surgery is primarily used to diagnose and treat various problems. The surgery involves a small incision through which a fiber-optic camera is placed into a joint to view the interior and evaluate motion of the moving parts. This allows for a clear diagnosis and a means by which to see any injuries or malformations that might not otherwise be visible. It also allows for instruments to be inserted into the joint through a secondary and similar incision, to perform a myriad of treatment procedures.
What is Ankle Arthroscopy in Particular?
Ankle arthroscopy serves surgeons in their treatment of problems in the ankle joint. It can be used to diagnose and treat different disorders of the ankle joint. The list of problems that can sometimes be treated with this technology is constantly evolving, but currently includes:
- Ankle arthritis --ankle fusion is a common treatment for end-stage ankle arthritis.
- Ankle fractures--ankle arthroscopy may be used along with open techniques of fracture repair, which can help to ensure normal alignment of bone and cartilage. It also helps look for cartilage injuries inside the ankle.
- Ankle instability--ankle ligaments can become stretched out, which can lead to a feeling that the ankle gives way. Arthroscopy may be an option for treating moderate instability.
- Anterior ankle impingement --also known as athlete’s ankle or footballer’s ankle, this condition occurs when bone or soft tissue at the front of the ankle joint becomes inflamed, which can limit the ability to bend the ankle up. Bone spurs can often be seen on x-ray, and arthroscopy can be used to shave away inflamed tissues and bone spurs.
- Arthrofibrosis; scar tissue can form within the ankle, leading to a painful and stiff joint, which is also known as arthrofibrosis. Ankle arthroscopy can be used to identify the scar tissue and remove it.
- Infection-- if an infection in the joint space does not respond to antibiotic treatment alone, arthroscopic surgery can be used to wash out the joint.
- Loose bodies--cartilage, bone, and scar tissue can become free-floating in the joint and form these loose bodies, which can be painful and cause problems like clicking and catching, or even locking of the ankle joint. Ankle arthroscopy can be used to find and remove these loose bodies.
- Osteochondral defect--these are areas of damaged cartilage and bone in the ankle joint, usually resulting from injuries like fractures and sprains. Surgery often consists of scraping away the damaged cartilage and drilling small holes in the bones to promote healing. Bone grafting and cartilage transplant procedures also can be performed through arthroscopy.
- Posterior ankle impingement--this occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the ankle becomes inflamed. This overuse syndrome occurs commonly in dancers and can be associated with an extra bone called an os trigonum. The problem tissue can be removed with arthroscopy.
There are several symptoms of ankle pain that can be treated with arthroscopic foot surgery. Keep in mind that arthroscopy in nature may not be appropriate in patients with severe ankle arthritis, or in patients with active infections or other medical problems. So, as always, be sure to consult your doctor in the treatment of any condition or injury you may have.
Get an accurate diagnosis through an arthroscopic surgery at Diablo Foot and Ankle. Our specialists can assess the best treatment to get you back on your feet. Call us today to schedule an appointment.