Ankle Instability Surgery
What is ankle instability surgery? Chronic ankle instability is a condition characterized by a recurring giving way of the outer side of the ankle, developed after experiencing repeated ankle sprains. Usually, this occurs during physical activities, but can also strike when you’re just standing.
Causes: Chronic ankle instability usually develops after an ankle sprain that has not adequately healed or was not completely rehabilitated. When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments are stretched or torn, affecting your ability to remain balanced. Proper rehabilitation is needed to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and retrain the tissues within the ankle that affect balance. Failure to do so may result in repeated ankle sprains.
Sign & Symptoms: People with chronic ankle instability often complain about:
- A repeated turning of the ankle, especially on uneven surfaces or when participating in sports
- Constant discomfort and swelling
- Pain or tenderness
- The ankle feeling wobbly or unstable
Diagnosis and Treatment: In evaluating and diagnosing your condition, the surgeon will ask you about any previous ankle injuries and instability. Then they will examine your ankle to check for tender areas, swelling, and signs of instability. X-rays may help in further evaluations of the ankle.
Treatment for chronic ankle instability is based on the results of the examination and tests, as well as on the patient’s level of activity. Nonsurgical treatment may include:
- Physical therapy: Various treatments and exercises can strengthen the ankle, improve balance and range of motion, and retrain your muscles.
- Bracing: An ankle brace helps gain support for the ankle and keeps the ankle from turning, prevent additional ankle sprains.
- Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.
Surgery to Treat Ankle Instability
Podiatrists will recommend surgery based on the degree of instability or lack of response to nonsurgical treatments. It is common for these surgeries to repair or reconstruct the damaged ligament(s). The surgeon will select the surgical procedure best suited for your case based on the severity of the instability and your activity level. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.
Recovery: Following surgery, the ankle is placed in a plaster splint and the patient must use crutches or a knee scooter to avoid placing any weight on the affected foot. At two weeks, the plaster splint is replaced with a cast or removable boot, which is worn for an additional 2 to 4 weeks. Formal physical therapy is started at 6 weeks and an ankle support is worn for walking until 12 weeks after surgery. By ten to twelve weeks, most people no longer require a brace and can return to all their normal activities including participation in sports.