What is arthroscopic debridement of the ankle?

Arthroscopic debridement is a type of keyhole surgery. The doctor uses a small camera to see inside a joint. They then take out damaged cartilage, bone or other debris. The surgery requires only small incisions, so recovery time is shorter than with an open surgery. Bone spurs develop in your ankle joint as the cartilage breaks down when you suffer from arthritis. This means that the bones rub against each other without a cushion. The rubbing causes pain with every step or movement.

Arthroscopy is a type of surgery. The doctor uses a small camera with a light attached to it. It broadcasts the image onto a screen so the doctor sees it clearly. While this procedure doesn't cure arthritis, it helps to relieve pain, stiffness and other symptoms.

What to expect from arthroscopic debridement of the ankle

Doctors do this surgery while you're under general anesthesia. That means you're completely asleep during the operation. Your doctor might give you a spinal block instead. This temporarily paralyzes the lower half of your body so you don't feel the surgery.

In the operating room, your doctor applies traction to your ankle using a special device on the table. This increases the space between your leg bones so the doctor has more room to work. Your doctor makes a small incision to insert the camera. They move this around as they work to see different parts of the joint. The doctor makes two to three other small incisions for the other surgery tools. Your doctor then cleans out the ankle joint and washes away any bone fragments, spurs, broken cartilage or other tissues.

After surgery, your ankle is bandaged and placed in a splint. You may also wear compression stockings to reduce swelling. When you recover from the anesthesia, your healthcare team monitors your progress and lets you go home. You have a doctor's appointment 10 to 14 days after your surgery. The doctor removes the splint at that time. Total recovery time varies from patient to patient.

Common ankle conditions requiring arthroscopic debridement

Arthritis is the most common condition doctors treat with arthroscopic debridement. This includes osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Other conditions that benefit from this treatment are:

  • Unstable ankle
  • Fractured ankle
  • Ligament damage
  • Extra bone/cartilage in joint from injury

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