Lateral Ankle Stabilization

What are the goals of lateral ankle stabilization?

Ankle sprains are one of the most common sports-related injuries. They affect 10,000 people per day. When the ligaments on the outside of the ankle are stretched or torn, patients can have pain and feelings of instability. If symptoms persist after non-surgical treatment, surgery may be required. So the goal of lateral ankle stabilization surgery is to repair the injured ligaments.

What signs indicate surgery may be needed?

Patients that have failed physical therapy and bracing and have instability of the ankle may consider surgery.

When should I avoid surgery?

Patients should not have this surgery if they have certain medical issues or poor circulation or are unable to follow the recommended post-surgery rehab. You should discuss any medical concerns with your surgeon.

General Details of Procedures

The torn ends of the ligaments are identified. If possible, they are repaired by sewing the ends together. Commonly, the ligaments are reconnected to the fibula bone. Other tissues may be used to strengthen the repair.

Specific Technique

A general anesthetic is commonly used. Patients may have a nerve block to numb the leg along with sedative medicines given through an IV. An incision is made on the outside of the ankle over the torn ligaments. The ligaments are identified and, if possible, sewn together with stitches. Sometimes the ligaments are not strong enough on their own, and other tissue is moved from the top the foot and “tightened” to strengthen the repair. Typically tissue is re-attached to the fibula bone with stitches placed through holes drilled in the bone or with anchors placed into the bone. The incision is closed. A splint or cast is often placed. Patients typically go home the same day.

What happens after surgery?

After surgery, casting may be used for two to six weeks. Patients then go into a walking boot or brace and begin physical therapy. It is recommended that patients wear a brace for sports activities for up to a year.

Potential Complications

There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots.
Nerve injury can sometimes occur after ligament repair. This can result in numbness or burning on the outside of the foot.  Wound complications and stiffness can also occur. Recurrent ankle instability may occur.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the alternatives to surgery?
Treatment for ankle instability typically involves bracing and physical therapy. Many patients will respond to this treatment. 
What can happen if ankle instability goes untreated?
Repeat ankle sprains can occur. This can lead to ankle joint damage, bone and tendon injuries, and arthritis.
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