Ankle Arthroscopy

Edited by Paul Juliano, MD 

Patient Handout: Ankle Arthroscopy 


An ankle arthroscopy can be used to treat various injuries and disorders of the ankle. These include:
  • Synovitis. Synovitis is inflammation of the lining of the ankle joint (synovium). This can cause pain, swelling, and limit movement of the ankle. Synovitis may occur from an injury, arthritis or overuse. Arthroscopy can be used to remove the inflamed synovium.
  • Impingement. Impingement of the ankle can occur in the front (anterolateral or anterior impingement) or back of the ankle (posterior ankle impingement). It can cause pain and limit movement of the ankle. Arthroscopy can be used to remove the source of the pain.
  • Osteochondritis dessicans
  • Loose bodies. Sometimes a loose piece of bone or cartilage can dislodge from within the ankle joint. This piece can be removed with arthroscopy
  • Infection. Infections can sometimes occur in the ankle joint either from a previous surgery or from spreading from another place in the body. Arthroscopy may be used to remove infectious tissue and to clean the joint with water to aid in removing the infection.
  • Ankle arthritis. Arthroscopy may be used clean bone spurs, and inflamed tissue or loose cartilage associated with ankle arthritis. This does not fix the arthritis, but may potentially help in temporarily improving pain. In very specific situations, arthroscopy may be used to perform an ankle fusion which is one type of surgical treatment for ankle arthritis.
  • Ankle instability. Arthroscopy may be used to repair ankle instability. This often requires tightening of the ligaments of the outside of the ankle (lateral ligament reconstruction).
  • Ankle fractures. Some ankle fractures extend into the ankle joint itself. Ankle arthroscopy can help ensure the break is aligned correctly.


Ankle arthroscopy typically involves two 3mm incisions in the front of the ankle. Through one of the incisions a pencil-sized camera is placed in the ankle. The camera is able to project the live images from the ankle onto a television type monitor. The surgeon is able to then see inside the ankle by looking at the images on the monitor. Through the second incision small instruments, which have various purposes (shaving, scraping, biting etc.) can be placed in the ankle. This technique can be used to address many different problems of the ankle.


The recovery after an ankle arthroscopy will depend on the type of surgery performed. Usually one stitch is placed in each incision. These will be removed in the office in about 2 weeks. After surgery, some patients will be placed in a surgical boot after and will be allowed to walk immediately. In other cases a soft cast will be applied and the patient will stay off the leg for a period of time. This can typically range from 1-6 weeks. Your orthopaedic surgeon will guide you post-operative process.

Potential General Complications

The complication risks from ankle arthroscopy are very low about 3.5%, but can include:

Patient Handout: Ankle Arthroscopy 

Edited February 6, 2018

Previously edited by Sarang Desai, DO 

mf/ 10.29.18

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