Ankle instability surgery

What is it?

Ankle instability surgery is a surgical procedure to repair damaged ligaments on the outer side of the ankle. Ankle instability surgery may be recommended if you have the following symptoms:

  • Torn ligaments on the lateral (outer) side of your ankle
  • Ankle keeps giving way
  • Swelling of the ankle

Diagnosis and treatment

Your consultant will examine you and ask you to demonstrate certain movements to check how well your ankle is working. You might need some additional tests which will be fully discussed with you during your appointment. This may include:

  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

Surgery may be considered if non-operative treatments, such as physiotherapy, have been unsuccessful. During surgery, your surgeon will make a cut over the outer side of the ankle and small grooves are made in the bone so that special sutures can be used to reattach the ligament to the bone. Occasionally, the ligament is badly damaged and it cannot be repaired. In this case, the ligament would be replaced with a piece of tendon outside of your ankle which is attached to the bone with stitches where the ligament would normally run. 

The procedure is performed under either a spinal anaesthetic or general anaesthetic, which will depend upon your choice, your concurrent medical conditions and review by the consultant anaesthetist. It is usually performed as a day case procedure. Recovery is dependent upon the underlying problem being addressed, but often requires a period of around four to six weeks in a below knee plaster or surgical boot.

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