Ligament injuries in the ankle and foot

What is it? 

Ligament injuries of the ankle and foot are caused when the strong ligaments that support the ankle or foot are stretched beyond their limits and are torn. These are common injuries and range from mild to severe depending on how much the ligament is damaged. Severe ligament damage can weaken your ankle or foot and repeated damage can lead to long-term problems.

You may need surgery if you have the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Instability of the ankle
  • Feeling a pop when the damage occurs

Diagnosis and treatment options

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

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

Surgery may be needed if injuries do not respond to non-surgical alternatives such as physiotherapy.

Surgical treatment may include:

Arthroscopy: During surgery your consultant uses a small camera to look inside your ankle joint. Miniature instruments are used to remove any loose fragments of bone or cartilage, or parts of the ligament that may be caught in the joint.

Ligament reconstruction: During surgery your consultant will repair the torn ligament by replacing it with a tissue graft obtained from other ligaments and/or tendons found in and around the foot and ankle.

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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