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Ankle Ligament Reconstruction Surgery

Ankle ligament reconstruction surgery can be used to treat lateral ankle sprains and instability. The aim is to stabilise the ankle, preventing it from ‘giving way’. It is often carried out when other non-surgical methods of treatment, such as physiotherapy, have not been successful.

What does surgery involve?

It’s normally carried out as a day case procedure under a general anaesthetic. In some cases, Mr Heidari may first examine the ligament using arthroscopy, before making a larger cut (incision) near the ligament.

In some cases, the existing ligament can be repaired with stitches. However, the repair may need to be strengthened by support from other tissues, or a tendon can be used to replace torn ligaments.

Before surgery

You can help improve the outcome of surgery by attending a pre-assessment screening where you’ll have blood tests to check for levels of Vitamin D and swabs to rule out infection or other problems. You’ll also be weighed and have an opportunity to discuss your medical history. This is important so that any anaesthetics problems can be identified.

Please note: it’s important to stop smoking at least eight weeks before your procedure; this is because smoking can affect the body’s ability to heal and causes health problems including an increased risk of blood clots forming in the lungs (pulmonary embolism) or calf (deep vein thrombosis).

What happens after surgery?

When you wake up after surgery, your foot will be raised and you will have a splint or cast for at least two weeks. Your foot will be numb and pain-free (from a local anaesthetic injection around the affected area). It can take up to six weeks before you will be able to take your weight on your ankle, along with wearing a support boot. A member of our physiotherapy team will help you to stand, supported by crutches, and will give you a tailored programme of exercises to help you walk correctly, allow the ankle to regain movement and flexibility, and reduce swelling. In most cases, you’ll be given anti-inflammatory painkillers to take for a few days.

How can I speed up my recovery?

Making sure you stick to the exercise programme and any other advice about looking after the wound will help you to get back to your normal activities as quickly as possible. It can also help to keep weight off the foot as much as possible for the first few days and raise it above the level of your heart whenever you can to help reduce swelling.

Your recovery will depend on the reason for your surgery and everyone recovers at different rates. However, you’ll be offered regular follow-up appointments so that Mr Heidari can check on your progress and answer any questions you may have.

When can I drive again?

The DVLA states that it’s the responsibility of the driver to ensure they are always in control of the vehicle. A good guide is when you can stamp down hard with the foot to stop the car during an emergency stop. How long this takes will vary, depending on how quickly you recover.

Although Mr Heidari will advise you about when it’s safe to start driving again, it is your own responsibility to drive safely and you should also check with your vehicle insurer to confirm you are covered.

When can I return to work?

This varies, depending on the type of work you do and the speed of your recovery. In most cases, if you have a sedentary job (sitting down most of the time), you should be able to return after around two weeks. If your job involves manual work, you may need up to 10 weeks off.

Are there any problems associated with having ankle ligament reconstruction surgery?

Any type of surgery carries some risk, including damaging nerves and blood vessels. However, in most cases, the benefits outweigh any risks.

What are the risks of this type of surgery?

All surgery carries risks. With ankle ligament reconstruction surgery, risks include a small chance of infection which can be treated with antibiotics. There is also a risk of nerve damage to the area around the wound, which can result in numbness. This usually recovers quickly.

You can find more information about recovering from ankle ligament reconstruction surgery in our patient information leaflet, which can be downloaded from this website.