Understanding Lateral Ankle Ligament Reconstruction

Lateral ankle ligament reconstruction is a surgery to tighten and firm up one or more ligaments on the outside of the ankle. It’s also known as the Brostrom procedure. It’s most often done as an outpatient surgery. This means you can go home the same day.

How the ankle works

Your ankle is a hinge joint. It lets your foot move up and down, and from side to side. Your foot and ankle have several ligaments. These are strong bands of tissue that keep the bones in your ankle and feet tightly connected. On the outer side of your foot, you have several ligaments. These include the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL), and the posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL). These help keep your ankle and foot steady when you walk.

Your ligaments can get weak and loose. This can happen if you have repeated ankle sprains. It can also happen if your foot or ankle is shaped different from a normal foot/ankle. Weak, loose ligaments can make your ankle become unstable.

Why lateral ankle ligament reconstruction is done

You may need this surgery if one or more of the ligaments on the outside of your ankle are loose or stretched. This leads to a condition called chronic ankle instability. It can cause chronic pain, repeated ankle sprains, and an ankle that often gives way when you walk or perform activities.

At first an ankle sprain may stretch and partially tear your ankle ligaments. This first sprain makes it more likely that you will sprain your ankle again. This is more likely if you did not have the first sprain treated properly. Additional sprains may loosen your ligaments even more.

Certain problems with your foot can make you more likely to have an unstable ankle. These include:

  • Foot alignment problem (hindfoot varus)

  • A big toe that sits lower than the other toes (plantar flexion of the first ray)

  • Arch larger than normal (midfoot cavus)

  • General looseness of your ligaments, such as from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

You may have already been treated with physical therapy and special foot inserts. A healthcare provider may advise surgery if other treatments for your ankle haven’t worked. It’s not common to need this surgery right after a first ankle sprain.

How lateral ankle ligament reconstruction is done

Your procedure will be done by an orthopedic surgeon. This is a doctor who specializes in surgery of bones, ligaments, and tendons. The surgery can be done in several ways. The surgeon will make a cut (incision) through the skin and muscle of the ankle. If your surgery is minimally invasive, your surgeon will make a small incision. He or she will put small tools and a tiny camera through the incision. The surgeon will remove the ATFL and CFL ankle ligaments from where they attach on a bone of the lower leg (fibula). These ligaments may be made shorter. The ligaments are then reattached to the fibula, using small new holes drilled into the bone.

Risks of lateral ankle ligament reconstruction

Every surgery has risks. Risks of this surgery include:

  • Too much bleeding

  • Nerve damage

  • Infection

  • Stiffness in your ankle joint

  • Blood clot

  • Problems from anesthesia

  • Your ankle stability does not get better

Your own risk for complications depends on your age, the anatomy of your foot, and your general health. Talk with your healthcare provider about any concerns you might have. He or she can tell you which risks apply most to you.