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What Is Ankle Arthrotomy?
Ankle arthrotomy is a surgical procedure that involves making an open incision into the ankle joint to gain access to the structures within the joint. Unlike arthroscopic procedures that use small incisions and a camera (arthroscope) for visualization, ankle arthrotomy provides direct access to the joint, allowing the surgeon to address various conditions or perform more extensive surgical interventions.
Ankle arthrotomy may be recommended for a variety of ankle joint conditions, including:
- Severe ankle fractures: In complex or severe ankle fractures, where there is significant damage to the joint surfaces and surrounding ligaments, an arthrotomy may be necessary to properly realign and stabilize the joint.
- Ankle joint infections: In cases of deep-seated ankle joint infections, an arthrotomy allows the surgeon to thoroughly clean and drain the infected joint space, reducing the risk of complications.
- Ankle joint osteoarthritis: In advanced cases of ankle osteoarthritis, where non-surgical treatments are no longer effective, arthrotomy may be performed for joint debridement, fusion (arthrodesis), or implantation of an ankle prosthesis.
- Loose bodies or fragments: Ankle arthrotomy can be used to remove loose bone or cartilage fragments within the joint that may be causing pain and limiting joint function.
- Ligament reconstruction: In cases of severe ankle instability due to ligament injuries, an arthrotomy can provide access for ligament repair or reconstruction.
During the ankle arthrotomy procedure, the surgeon makes an incision over the ankle joint and carefully moves aside surrounding tissues to expose the joint space. After addressing the specific issue within the joint, the incision is closed with sutures or staples, and the ankle is immobilized to allow for proper healing.
While ankle arthrotomy can provide more direct access to the joint, it is generally considered a more invasive procedure compared to arthroscopic techniques. As a result, it may require a longer recovery period and may have a higher risk of complications, such as infection and delayed wound healing.
The decision to perform ankle arthrotomy is based on the patient’s individual condition, the extent of joint damage, and the surgeon’s judgment of the most appropriate treatment approach. Whenever possible, less invasive treatments, such as arthroscopy, are typically considered first. As with any surgical procedure, it’s essential to have a thorough discussion with an orthopedic surgeon to understand the benefits, risks, and expected outcomes of ankle arthrotomy.