Minimally invasive surgery of the ankle and foot — what it is, and things to consider


Traditionally, when patients with deformities or other conditions of the foot and/or ankle required surgery to address their issues, they typically faced open surgery with large incisions and lengthy recovery times. 

But today, thanks to advances in medical technologies and procedures, a less-intrusive option is often available — minimally invasive surgery (MIS). And for patients who are able to choose minimally invasive foot and ankle procedures over traditional open procedures, the benefits can be considerable and wide-ranging.

What is minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery?

Minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery encompasses a range of procedures performed via very small incisions in the skin of the foot and ankle area. Once the tiny incisions are made, surgeons insert specially designed surgical instruments through them in order to access, see and operate on the specific areas being treated. Because the instruments are so small and the area being treated can be so precisely targeted, there is typically little to no injury to adjacent tissues.

Conditions that can be treated with minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery

Not all patients are candidates for minimally invasive surgery. But for those who do qualify for minimally invasive foot and/or ankle procedures, some of the most common conditions that can be treated with them include:

  • Big toe arthritis
  • Bunions
  • Corns
  • Hammertoes
  • Foot and ankle contractures (an inability to bring the foot up to a right angle with the lower leg, typically due to muscle or tendon tightness, scarring in the ankle joint, or bone spurs) 
  • Calluses
  • Diabetic foot ulcerations
  • Plantar fasciitis (heel pain)
  • Warts
  • Bone cysts
  • Bone contusions
  • Stress reactions
  • Stress fractures
  • Ankle pain
  • Ankle arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Ligament and cartilage injuries
  • Osteochondritis dissecans or OCD (a loss of blood supply to one or multiple bones in the ankle, which can lead to fractures or breaks in the joint)

The broad benefits of minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery

Because the incisions are so small and the areas being treated can be so precisely targeted, minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery can deliver many potential benefits, including:

  • Smaller incisions — The incisions required for minimally invasive surgery are much smaller than those required for most traditional surgeries, and patients typically need little to no stitches after their minimally invasive procedures. In most cases, this also results in smaller and less noticeable scarring as a result of the surgery, with less jagged edges on any scars that do form.
  • Shorter recovery times — Minimally invasive surgery typically causes little to no injury to the soft tissue around the precisely targeted areas being treated, leading to quicker recovery times in most cases.
  • Reduced pain — Studies have found that patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery typically report less pain than patients who undergo traditional surgical procedures, and they also typically experience a reduced need for pain relievers.
  • Lower risk of complications — Because the incisions are smaller and the impacts on surrounding tissues are reduced with minimally invasive surgery (as opposed to traditional surgery), the risk of complications is also typically reduced.
  • Quicker procedures and more qualifying patients Often capable of being performed as outpatient procedures, minimally invasive procedures can typically be performed in less time than traditional open procedures. And in most cases, minimally invasive procedures require less anesthesia than traditional open procedures, as they can often be performed using local anesthesia rather than general anesthesia. As a result, more patients tend to qualify for minimally invasive procedures than traditional procedures, as many patients for whom general anesthesia might be considered too risky are candidates for local anesthesia.

Who performs the procedures?

Here at Wilmington Health, Dr. Sharrona Williams, an orthopaedic surgeon with a specialty focus on the foot and ankle, provides both surgical and non-surgical treatments for pediatric and adult patients — and she opts to perform minimally invasive procedures whenever possible. A skilled surgeon, Dr. Williams takes a holistic approach to orthopaedic care by focusing on all aspects of a patient’s orthopaedic recovery, from education, footwear and posture to analysis of daily routines, ergonomics, fitness and more.

To view a Wilmington Health discussion of minimally invasive bunion surgery featuring Dr. Williams, click here.

Need the help of an orthopaedic expert? Wilmington Health has you covered

The specialists in the Wilmington Health Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine offer surgical and non-surgical care to patients with injuries or diseases of the musculoskeletal system — including a range of conditions of the muscles, joints and tendons. To schedule an appointment with a provider, contact the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine today.