Ankle Arthroscopy for Ankle Arthritis

Ankle Arthroscopy

What exactly is key hole surgery on the ankle?

Key hole surgery is another name for an arthroscopy. During an ankle arthroscopy the surgeon looks inside the ankle joint.


Two instruments (about the thickness of a biro) are inserted into the ankle. One of the instruments is a small camera. The other instrument allows the surgeon to treat problems found within the ankle joint.

Key hole surgery is an excellent way of removing anything that has formed in the ankle that should not be there.

The surgeon can remove:

  • Scar tissue from inside the joint

  • Loose cartilage/bone to stimulate healing (Micofracture of OCL)

  • Extra bone which is blocking joint movement (Cheilectomy)

What can I expect on the day of surgery?

  • The surgery will normally be under a general anaesthetic.

  • Normally this is a day surgery case (unless the ankle arthroscopy is part of a bigger surgery).

  • I will numb the ankle with local anaesthetic so that you will be comfortable when you wake.

  • There will be a big bandage on your ankle which you will later remove

  • You will be given crutches

What are the risks and complications?

The vast majority of patients do extremely well. A small group of patients need extra physio due to swelling or stiffness. Rare complications include infection, blood clots (DVT), nerve damage, tendon injury & failure to improve.

What can I expect if I have ankle arthritis and I have this surgery?

  • The surgery will be slow to recover from even though the surgery is keyhole

  • The reason for doing this surgery will be to stop extra bony edges from entrapping the joint lining and pinching it

  • The extra bone also restricts movement

  • At the time of surgery it may be that you also have a keyhole heel shift to realign the ankle and to allow your weight to go onto the better areas of cartilage

  • If you have large cysts near the joint these can be filled with bone substitute via a mini incision

  • The goal of the surgery is to tidying up the ankle joint and to give you more years before you face making the decision about either ankle replacement or ankle fusion. It should lesson your ankle symptoms eventually but will not make your ankle normal

  • The surgery is not appropriate for all patients with arthritis. Some patients have arthritis which is too severe.

When can I drive?

The best guide that you are safe to return to driving is that you are able to walk well without crutches. The usual time scale also depends on whether you had surgery on your right or left foot and whether you drive a manual or an automatic.


If you have just keyhole surgery without a heel shift or bone grafting:

  • Right side and all car types: 2-3 wks

  • Left side and manual car: 2-3 wks

  • Left side & automatic car: 1 week


 If you keyhole surgery with a heel shift and/or bone grafting of cysts:

  • Right side and all car types: 6-8 wks

  • Left side and manual car: 6-8 wks

  • Left side & automatic car: 2 wks

How long should I take off work?

You will need to be at home for two weeks. Many patients do some work from home via a laptop and emails but a break from commuting to work is a must!

The Recovery after Ankle Arthroscopy

What are my Weight bearing Instructions?


Cheilectomy                  >> Start Touch Weightbearing- progress as able

Cheilectomy+ Heel shift  >> Non Weightbearing in Aircast boot for 2 weeks

Instructions for the first two weeks

  1. Elevate Leg Above Heart

  2. Keep dry for two weeks

  3. Reduce outer dressing at 48 hrs & apply tubigrip

  4. Keep Adhesive dressing intact

  5. Ice Ankle (Wrap ice in towel) for 15 minutes each time. Do this every few hours

  6. Physio Exercises: Get your ankle moving! Do the following every waking hour 10-15 times

A)  Alternate the ankle between dorsiflexion and plantarflexion

B) Alternate the ankle between inversion and eversion

C) Draw the Alphabet with your big toe. This will encourage the ankle to move in all directions.

D) Seated Calf Raise

  1. Sit in a chair

  2. Lift your heel as far as possible while keeping your toes on the floor.

  3. Repeat 10 x


  • I will arrange to have your sutures removed and to check your wound

  • You will then be able to wash the ankle

  • You should schedule your first physiotherapy session for 2 weeks



  • Continue to work on range of motion but progress to towel or standing stretches

  • Contrast bathing,

  • Wound massage (self) for 3 months

  • Local modalities to reduce swelling

  • Start to work on strengthening

    • Theraband Resistance

    • Cycling on stationary cycle

    • Progressing to double heel rises

    • Swimming, Hydrotherapy

  • Start some early proprioception (balance) work by standing on skipping rope to create a slightly uneven surface

  • Progress to the Surrey Stages to Strengthen Ankle





  • You can go up and down on tiptoes in sets of 3, slowly and 15 reps in each

  • You can stand on a skipping rope and adjust your foot position

  • You can hold a DHR for 15 seconds

  • It can be difficult to progress to the next award level because the ankle will take double the weight when you move to lifting the good leg to lower only on the operated leg.

  • You are better to stay at the bronze award level but to add in a back pack with increasing weight as you feel ready for more

  • When you have done this for some time you will be ready to progress to the silver award level




  • May need to add weight in backpack on DHR to reach silver level

  • You go up on both feet but lift unoperated leg and lower slowly only on operated leg

  • 3 sets, working up to 15 reps in each

  • You can stand both feet on a wobble board

  • You can hold a solid DHR for 20 seconds




  • 3 sets, working up to 15 reps in each

  • You can stand on one foot on wobble board

  • You can hold a solid DHR for 40+ seconds



  • Progress to hopping in all directions

  • Double Hops

  • Gentle jogging to reintroduce running