The ankle ligaments provide stability to the ankle. Sometimes these ligaments can be damaged when the ankle is twisted or sprained. Usually the ligaments repair themselves over time, but in some cases this does not happen and the ankle remains unstable. In this situation, surgery to reconstruct the ankle ligaments may be recommended.
Ankle ligament surgery will usually be performed under general anaesthetic and is a day-case procedure. Occasionally an ankle arthroscopy (key-hole surgery) is required before the ligament operation is performed.
To reconstruct the ligament, an incision is made over the outside of the ankle. The damaged ligament is then cut, and healthy ligament is pulled up over the damaged ligament and attached to the bone. The ankle is then placed in a plaster cast.
For the first few weeks following ankle ligament surgery you will need to elevate your foot as much as possible to reduce swelling. This will both make the foot more comfortable and help the wounds to heal. You will have to keep your weight off the foot for the first two weeks using crutches. You will then have the stitches removed and the ankle will be placed in a walking boot for four more weeks. You can walk in this boot. At six weeks, you will be provided with an ankle brace that you can wear in your normal shoes. Due to the fact ankle stability is very dependent on the muscular support, physiotherapy is an essential part of gaining the best result possible following an ankle ligament repair. As such, you will need to work hard for several months with balance and strength training exercises.
An ankle ligament repair is a commonly performed and generally safe procedure but there are some potential complications you should be aware of. These affect a very small percentage of patients.
- Infection can occur although our theatres have ultra-clean air operating conditions keeping infection rates to the minimum.
- Blood clots are possible and are more common in patients with some pre-existing medical conditions. However, again they affect a very small percentage of patients and have well established treatments including aspirin.
- Very rarely, damage to the nerves around the ankle leading to weakness, numbness or pain in the foot - this usually settles on its own.
- The ankle keeps giving way. This may happen if the ligament graft fails due to stretching or a further injury.
- Sometimes the ligaments can become too tight following the surgery which may reduce the ankle range of movement.