Ankle Arthroscopy for Treatment of Bone Spurs

Is it possible to use ankle arthroscopy to treat bone spurs on the ankle?

Osteophytes, more commonly known as bone spurs, typically develop where bones come together, which is why they are most often found in the joints. Despite the image of a “spur” being anything but smooth, bone spurs actually are smooth, just like the surface of normal bones. 

Bone spurs may develop in any of the joints throughout the body, as well as in the spine. Since they are the result of the body trying to repair a problem, more specifically, a response to abnormal stress and pressure placed on a bone, bone spurs tend to develop in higher stress areas, like the ankles and feet.  Repeated stress and pressure increases the possibility of damage to the bone or to an injury. The body recognizes this as a trigger for it to take action and deliver additional amounts of calcium to this location. In time, that extra calcium becomes a bone spur. 

Most people who have bone spurs are not even aware of them. As long as this new bone growth is not touching or rubbing against ligaments and tendons, or, more problematic, nerves, there is rarely a need to be concerned about them. However, unless the situation changes and the pressure on the area is reduced, the bone spur will continue to grow and eventually it may well press on a nerve or on the spinal cord, which is often quite painful.  

Risk Factors for Bone Spurs in the Ankles

Anyone can develop a bone spur in the ankle, but, obviously, athletes who place repeated and extreme demands on the ankles tend to be more at risk. Certain conditions, like arthritis, also increase the potential for developing bone spurs. Some of the other more common risk factors include:

  • aging
  • infections
  • extra body weight
  • shoes that do not fit properly or are inappropriate for the activity
  • heredity
  • poor posture

Ankle Arthroscopy to Treat Bone Spurs 

Bones spurs on the ankle or anywhere else in the body that are not causing pain or issues with movement rarely require treatment. When symptoms do develop, the initial suggestions for treatment will likely be aimed at easing pain and stopping whatever is deemed to be the cause of the development of the bone spur. Treatment may include some combination of ice, rest, stretching and medications to reduce pain and inflammation. Patients will also be directed to modify activities creating the extra pressure, as well as losing weight if that is an issue.

When these steps are not sufficient and surgery is recommended, ankle arthroscopy is increasingly the method chosen by orthopedic surgeons. Traditional surgical practices typically cut through muscle, tendons and ligaments in the process of removing the bone spur. Today, arthroscopic surgery is able to do the same thing in a far more minimally invasive manner.

During ankle arthroscopy, the surgeon makes two small incisions; one for the small tools used and the other for the tiny camera that guides the process. Typically done on an outpatient basis, ankle arthroscopy causes less trauma to surrounding tissue, which results in a less painful and shorter recovery period following surgery.

If you have questions about bone spurs or about any foot or ankle concerns, Dr. Christopher Hubbard is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and is the former Chief of the Foot and Ankle Service at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in NYC. To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.