What is Ankle Instability?
The joints of the ankle are held in place and stabilized by strong bands of tissue called ligaments. Ankle instability is a chronic condition characterized by a recurrent slipping of the outer side of the ankle. It usually results from repeated ankle sprains, which are injuries to the ligaments. Ankle instability is generally noticed when you move your ankle joint but can also occur while standing.
What Causes Ankle Instability?
Repetitive injury of the ankle ligaments on the same side is the most common cause of ankle instability. Inadequate healing of the sprained ligament or incomplete rehabilitation of the affected ligament can also result in ankle instability.
What are the Symptoms of Ankle Instability?
The most common symptoms associated with ankle instability include:
- Pain in the ankle joint
- Swelling and tenderness of the ankle
- Persistent discomfort and instability
- Giving way of the ankle while walking on uneven surfaces or during a sporting activity
How is Ankle Instability Diagnosed?
A complete medical history, including a history of any previous ankle injuries, and a physical examination is essential for an accurate diagnosis of the condition. An X-ray and other imaging tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and further evaluate the injury.
How is Ankle Instability Treated?
The management of ankle instability depends on the findings of the physical examination and your level of activity.
Conservative treatment for ankle instability includes:
- Physical therapy for improving the strength, balance, and range of motion of the joint
- Bracing to support the affected ankle and prevent further sprain
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce the pain and inflammation
Surgery is recommended in patients with a high degree of instability and in those who have failed to respond to non-surgical treatment. Commonly used surgical procedures involve repair or reconstruction of the damaged ligament.
How is an Ankle Ligament Reconstruction Procedure Performed?
Ankle ligament reconstruction may be performed arthroscopically under general anesthesia. Your surgeon will make small incisions in your ankle. A tiny camera and a few special instruments are inserted through the incisions to repair and strengthen the ligaments. Stretched or torn ligaments will be shortened and stitched as needed. Sometimes, a weakened ligament is reconstructed with a section of tendon derived from the foot and around the ankle.
What is the Recovery for Ankle Ligament Reconstruction?
The recovery time after ankle ligament reconstruction depends on the extent of injury and the procedure performed. For the first few weeks after surgery, you will be instructed to use crutches or a wheelchair and avoid bearing any weight on the reconstructed ankle joint.
What are the Risks and Complications of Ankle Ligament Reconstruction?
Specific complications of ankle ligament reconstruction include infection, nerve damage, ankle joint stiffness and recurrent instability.