The Common Signs to Look for and What to Expect During Ankle Surgery
According to recent statistics, approximately one out of every five people will suffer from ankle pain at some point in their life. Considering how much the ankle is involved in walking, running, and navigating stairs, it makes sense that this area of the body is prone to injuries such as sprains and fractures. It’s also worth noting that the ankle is subject to conditions such as tendonitis and arthritis.
Whatever the case may be, ankle conditions can cause pain, swelling, reduced mobility, inability to bear weight, instability, and other symptoms that make walking and other daily activities more difficult. Those experiencing chronic ankle conditions experience a drastic reduction in their quality of life because they can no longer do the things that used to be so easy. For instance, a serious ankle condition may result in a person being unable to operate a motor vehicle.
What to Do When Experiencing an Ankle Condition or Injury
For ankle injuries and medical conditions, the first step is to reach out to an orthopedic doctor. Once they collect a detailed medical history and examine the area, they will officially diagnose the area and come up with a treatment plan that’s specific to you.
For minor to moderate conditions, the treatment plan will likely consist of non-invasive measures such as heat/ice therapy, over-the-counter medications, steroid injections, or an assistive device, such as a brace or walking cane.
For more serious conditions and chronic illnesses such as arthritis, your orthopedic doctor may try more aggressive forms of treatment. They may even refer you over to an orthopedic surgeon if it turns out that non-invasive measures are ineffective. One form of surgical treatment that’s often used is ankle debridement.
Ankle Debridement – What It Is and What to Expect
The term “debridement” refers to the process of removing foreign objects and damaged tissue from an area of the anatomy – usually a joint. However, ankle debridement is more commonly referred to as ankle arthroscopy, which is a surgical process that uses cameras and small surgical tools that are inserted through keyhole-sized incisions. In addition to removing bone fragments, excess tissue, and foreign objects, ankle arthroscopy is the method used to treat severe medical issues within the ankle joint and reshape bones.
The main advantage of ankle arthroscopy is that it’s minimally invasive, meaning that patient recovery times are far shorter when compared to open surgery. Patients should expect to be recovered enough to begin physical therapy within a few weeks. Ankle arthroscopy also carries lower risk of complications such as infections, which is why many surgeons prefer this method.
Conditions That Ankle Arthroscopy Treats
Considering the high average success rate of ankle arthroscopy combined with its relatively short recovery time, orthopedic surgeons use this method to treat a wide array of ankle and joint issues. Some of the most common ones include:
- Torn ligaments
- Removal of scar tissue, bone fragments, cartilage, and other foreign objects
- Tendons and/or nerves suffering from impingement
- Joint instability
Before and After Ankle Arthroscopy
Prior to ankle arthroscopy, patients will be given detailed instructions on how to properly prepare for their surgery. Depending on your specific ankle condition, your surgeon may advise you to do any of the following:
- Cease eating or drinking all food and beverages (including alcohol) 12 hours prior to surgery
- Cease the use of tobacco products four months prior to surgery
- Cease the use of blood thinners prior to and after surgery
- Arrange for transportation to and from surgery (must be a friend or family member)
Once the surgery is complete, your surgeon will go over your discharge instructions. These instructions are intended to keep your pain levels at a minimum and speed along your healing and recovery time. Depending on your specific ankle condition, your surgeon may advise you to do any of the following during your recovery:
- Avoid putting full weight on the affected ankle; you may be required to use a crutch
- Apply ice to the affected area
- Keep the ankle elevated
- Take over-the-counter or prescription pain medication
- Refrain from getting the incision points wet
- Wear a splint
It’s also quite common for ankle surgery patients to enter physical therapy once the area has reached a certain point in its recovery. In most cases, your orthopedic doctor or surgeon will be able to refer you to a PT specialist.