Ankle Ligament Reconstruction

An ankle sprain is a common injury that occurs when the ankle is twisted or turned, and results in torn ligaments within the joint. This injury often causes pain, swelling and bruising, and if it does not heal properly, it may lead to chronic ankle instability or repeated ankle sprains. Ankle ligament reconstruction is a procedure commonly performed on patients experiencing chronic ankle instability and repeated ankles sprains. It is effective in repairing torn ligaments, tightening loosened ligaments and improving the overall stability of the joint.

What Is Lateral Ankle Ligament Reconstruction?

Lateral ankle ligament reconstruction is a surgical procedure that is specifically designed to repair damaged ligaments on the lateral side of the ankle. Lateral ankle reconstruction is usually performed to treat ongoing ankle instability, caused by repeat ankle injuries, such as strains and sprains.

The Ankle Ligament Reconstruction Procedure

The ankle ligament reconstruction procedure is performed on an outpatient basis while the patient is sedated under general anesthesia. Different techniques may be used by the surgeon, depending on the condition of the ankle. During the procedure, torn ligaments may be repaired with stitches or sutures, two ligaments may be reattached, or part of a lateral tendon around the ankle may be used to repair the torn ligament. After the procedure is complete, a splint or cast is applied to the ankle. This procedure may take up to 2 hours to perform.

Why Would Lateral Ankle Ligament Reconstruction Be Recommended?

Ankle reconstruction is often recommended when conservative measures fail to provide relief. Some of the most common reasons this surgery is recommended include:

  • Chronic instability. For patients who have recurrent twisting, strains, or sprains of their ankles, surgical intervention is usually recommended.
  • Ineffective conservative treatments: If bracing, rest, and physical therapy fail to improve symptoms, surgery is recommended.
  • Ligament damage: If the damage to one or more ligaments is severe, it is usually best to proceed with repair or reconstruction.

What Happens During an Ankle Ligament Reconstruction Procedure?

During ankle ligament reconstruction, small incisions are made around your ankle. In some cases, the surgeon may choose to use an arthroscopic technique. Arthroscopic ankle ligament reconstruction is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that utilizes small cameras to visualize the affected ankle. The damaged ligaments are then reconstructed or repaired. This is especially true when the ligaments are torn or too lax to support the ankle.

One of the most common types of repairs utilizes a tendon graft, which is harvested from another part of your body. This is called an autograft. The graft is then affixed to your ankle bone using a combination of anchors, screws, and possibly other types of fixation devices to stabilize your ankle.

How Long After an Ankle Ligament Reconstruction Would You Be Able To Walk Again?

Since every patient heals differently, the recovery period after ligament reconstruction will vary. However, there is a generalized timeline most patients follow after surgical intervention:

  • Immobilization: Immediately after surgery, your ankle is placed into a cast, walking boot, or splint. In many cases, you will need to wear the immobilizer between two to six weeks. The time spent immobilized depends on the extent of ligament damage and what type of repair or reconstruction was performed.
  • Gradual weight-bearing: Once the immobilization period is complete, your surgeon will decide whether you are ready to gradually bear weight on your ankle. In most cases, your surgeon will only recommend partial weight bearing at first, gradually increasing the amount of time and weight you place on your ankle.
  • Rehabilitation: Unless the repair was very minimal, you will also need to complete a course of physical therapy. In physical therapy, you will focus on strengthening the ankle ligaments while increasing weight as well. The duration of physical therapy will depend on how well your ankle is healing, how well you are progressing with weight bearing, and the type of repair or reconstruction performed.

What Risk Is Involved in Retearing an Ankle Ligament After Being Repaired?

The risk of retearing a repaired ankle ligament depends on a number of factors, which include your anatomy, compliance with post-operative instructions, and integrity of the repair.

Risks of Ankle Ligament Reconstruction

As with any surgery, there are possible complications associated with ankle ligament reconstruction which may include:

  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection
  • Bleeding

After surgery, blood clots within the veins of the legs may also occur.

Recovery from Ankle Ligament Reconstruction

After surgery, patients will use crutches for up to two weeks. After this time, they may begin walking in a removable walking boot. Physical therapy is a crucial part of the healing process, and usually begins after about six weeks. Physical therapy treatments focus on improving range of motion without putting excessive strain on the healing tendons. Muscle-stengthening exercises and range of motion exercises may all be used to increase movement and mobility.

Most patients fully recover from ankle ligament reconstruction after three to four months, and at that time they can resume all regular activities including running and exercise.

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