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Ankle Arthroscopy: Before Your Surgery

What is ankle arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a way to find problems and do surgery inside a joint without making a large cut (incision). Your doctor puts a lighted tube with a tiny camera through small incisions. The camera is called an arthroscope, or scope.

This surgery can treat several problems.

  • For arthritis, the doctor smooths rough surfaces of the ankle bones.
  • For an ankle that does not move easily or feels as though it locks, the doctor may put back or take out a loose piece of bone or cartilage.
  • For a broken ankle, the doctor can put the bones back in the right positions.
  • For an ankle with pain and limited movement, the doctor may find and remove scar tissue. Or a growth called a ganglion cyst may be removed.

You may go home on the day of surgery. Your ankle may be in a brace, a flexible boot, or a cast. You will probably need about 6 weeks to recover. If your doctor repaired a broken bone or torn tissue, recovery will take longer. You may have to limit your activity until your ankle strength and movement are back to normal. You may need physiotherapy.

You may be able to go back to your normal routine a few days after the surgery. If you lift things or stand or walk a lot at work, it may be 1 to 2 months before you can go back to work. If you had surgery for a broken bone (fracture), it may be even longer before you can do physical labour.

After surgery and rehab, you will probably have less pain and more strength and movement in your ankle.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • You may need to shower or bathe with a special soap the night before and the morning of your surgery. The soap contains chlorhexidine. It reduces the amount of bacteria on your skin that could cause an infection after surgery.
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing that will be easy to get on and off. You may have a large bandage, boot, or cast after surgery.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may be asleep or have medicine to relax you. And if you're awake, the area will be numbed. It's often numbed even if you are asleep.
  • The surgery will take about 1 to 2 hours.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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