Mr John McKinley, Orthopaedic Surgeon

MBChB BMSc(Hons) FRCS(Orth)


You should be able to walk on the ankle as soon as you have recovered from the anaesthetic. No plaster cast is required, just a bandage which stays on for a couple of days. Some people may need crutches for a few days.

Recovery will depend to a large extent on what is actually done to the ankle during the procedure

It is important to start moving the ankle as soon as possible to prevent stiffness and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

It usually takes 10-14 days for wounds to heal and you should try to keep the ankle up as much as possible during this time. If you notice it becoming more swollen, elevate it and use a cold compress for 10-15 minutes.

There are a couple of stitches that need to be removed – this will generally be done at your local GP practice.

Recovery will depend to a large extent on what is actually done to the ankle during the procedure. Most people take pain killers for a few days and are able to fully weight bear without a crutch or stick within a week.

You may return to work when comfortable. Patients who mainly sit at work can often be back within a week, whereas those who are predominantly on their feet may take 4-6 weeks. Return to sport generally takes between six weeks and three months.

If an area of cartilage damage is found in the ankle, the damaged cartilage is removed and the base of it drilled to stimulate the formation of new scar tissue. The recovery from this is variable and can take several months.

However, until recently there has been no reliable way to treat the large defects, or those who do not respond to drilling.

The technology is now available to harvest a patient’s healthy cartilage cells and grow them in the laboratory, where they are placed into an artificial cartilage membrane. This is then placed into the ankle approximately six to eight weeks later in a separate procedure to cover the area of damaged cartilage and has been shown to have very good outcomes. This surgery is performed at Spire Murrayfield Hospital and Mr McKinley has been using this technique with good results.


Infection is a risk with any operation. If it occurs, it is generally a minor wound redness, which can be treated with antibiotics for a few days. Occasionally it may be more severe and require a return to theatre to be washed out.

Another risk of surgery is numbness over part of the top of the foot. The incisions for the keyholes are close to nerves which are gently pushed out of the way during the procedure. Although this is done carefully it may stretch the nerve and stop it from working. This generally recovers, but may take several months. A small number of patients may have areas of permanent numbness. Rarely the nerves can over-react and cause a permanent pain syndrome.

Deep Vein Thrombosis - a blood clot in the veins of the leg is rare after ankle arthroscopy because most patients walk soon after the operation. However if you have had a DVT before or are thought to be of high risk, then you may need to take medicine during your recovery.

0131 316 2530