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Aircast boot

A splint that is used to support the leg after surgery, but that allows some movement and weight-bearing on the foot.


The surgeon makes small incisions and inserts a tiny camera (an endoscope) into the joint. The image is shown on a video monitor, enabling the surgeon to make a thorough examination of the area. Once the diagnosis has been made, other small incisions are made to allow small surgical instruments to be inserted. The entire operation is carried out while looking at the monitor.

Articular Cartilage

Hard, slippery material that enables bones in the joints to move against each other smoothly. Has virtually no blood supply, so cannot be naturally replaced by the body.


The removal of a sample of tissue for examination in a laboratory

Bone Scan

A scan which involves injecting the patient with a small amount of radioactive material. Tumours, fractures and infections in the bone absorb a greater amount of radioactive material than normal bone. A Gamma camera (scanner) is used to detect where there is more uptake of the radioactive material.

Bone Spur

Lump or outgrowth of the bone. Formed when the body tries to repair itself by producing more bone - usually in response to rubbing, pressure or stress over a period of time.


Hard, slippery material that enables bones in the joints to move against each other smoothly. Has virtually no blood supply, so cannot be naturally replaced by the body.


The complete removal of an organ, tissue, bone or a tumour


Parts of a joint become trapped as a result of injury or other damage, resulting in reduced movement and/or pain.


Fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones


Surgical technique that involves making tiny fractures in the surface of bone. This encourages blood and bone marrow to come to the surface and stimulate healing. Used when the articular cartilage (see above) in a joint has worn through or been broken off the bone. Microfracture can encourage the bone to grow a replacement type of cartilage.

Minimally invasive surgery

Surgery that is carried out while looking straight at the area under surgery, without using cameras and monitors. Minimally invasive surgery only uses small incisions, and causes little damage to surrounding tissue. Post-operative scarring is minimal, and recovery is quick.

MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

A scan using magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of the inner parts of the body in a non-invasive manner. Especially useful for diagnosing soft tissue or cartilage damage which doesn’t show up on an x-ray (see below).

Open surgery

Surgery that is carried out without using cameras and monitors. The area to be treated is opened up completely with a large incision. This is usually necessary for treating problems deep inside a joint. Scarring can be substantial - both internally and externally. Recovery period can be lengthy.

Os trigonum

A small section of bone that is separated from the talus (anklebone). This occurs naturally in about 10% of the population.


Any small bones in the body. Ossicles in the joint can be easily displaced after injury.


There are about 100 different types of arthritis, but the most common is degenerative or osteoarthritis. It usually occurs in people over 50, often as a result of previous injury to a joint, or simply the wearing away of cartilage. The disease causes bones to become misshapen, which affects the movement of the joint, and usually also results in soft tissue damage.


The over-stretching or tearing of ligaments, usually as a result of a violent twisting action on a joint. Minor sprains only stretch the ligament. There may also be a complete tear of all the strands of the ligament, or a partial tear affecting only some of the strands.

Stress fracture

A break that occurs as a result of repetitive impact on a bone. Each impact is usually fairly minor, but over time, the bone (and cartilage) can fracture. Also known as a hairline fracture, it usually appears in weight-bearing bones such as those in the ankle and the foot.


Soft tissue that lines the inside of the joints. Synovium is made up of two layers of membrane and contains a fluid called synovial fluid. The synovium has three main uses: it cushions the joint; it separates out the parts of the joint, and it helps the joint move smoothly.


Fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bone

Tendon sheath

All tendons run through a sleeve called a tendon sheath. This is filled with a gel-like fluid that lubricates the tendon, enabling it to move in an elastic fashion.

Traumatic / acute fracture

A fracture in bone and/or cartliage that occurs as a result of a single forceful impact. It can be a simple fracture (a single crack) or a compound fracture (the bone is displaced).


A scan that uses sound waves to create an image of the insides of the body. The sounds waves bounce off internal organs and tissues, and a computer converts the sound waves into a picture.


The waves from electromagnetic radiation can penatrate the body, but are blocked by hard materials (such as bone). An x-ray source is placed on one side of the body, and an x-ray film or detector is placed on the other side. The places where the rays are blocked show up on x-ray film as lighter or white areas.