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Loose bodies

Pieces of cartilage or bone get broken off, causing problems with ankle movement and pain. The ankle joint works as a modified hinge, so movement can easily be inhibited by loose bodies in the joint.

What is it?

There are many reasons for loose bodies to be ┬┤floating┬┤ within the ankle joint.

Degenerative disease of the bone or osteoarthritis can cause the bone to become deformed, which can lead to pieces of bone breaking off. Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone that makes it more porous and more liable to break - increasing the chances of small pieces of bone breaking off. Both of these tend to occur in people over the age of about 40.

Traumatic fractures or stress fractures in the ankle can result in pieces of bone and / or cartilage breaking off. Some naturally occurring small bones in the ankle, such as the Os trigonum can also become loose bodies if the supportive network of ligaments and tendons is damaged.

Any hard substance that is dislocated in a joint can cause impingement of the soft tissues. The ankle joint works as a modified hinge, so movement can easily be inhibited by loose bodies in the joint.

How does it feel?

Loose bodies can occur anywhere within the joint. There may be pain and swelling during and after activity, and an inhibited range of movement. You might also experience a clicking and catching sensation when you move your ankle. Your ankle may also lock or give way as you put weight through it.


An x-ray will indicate if any bones have broken off or small bones have become dislocated. An MRI scan will show if any pieces of cartilage have broken off, and show referred damage or inflammation of ligaments and soft tissue. The surgeon might use arthroscopic diagnosis to see inside the joint more clearly.


During arthroscopy, any loose bodies will be removed, bone spurs will be excised, and damaged or inflamed soft tissue will be repaired or removed.


You will need to rest and ice the ankle for 48 hours after surgery, after which time you will be able to put weight on the foot and start early physiotherapy. Depending on where the loose bodies were removed from and how severe the damage to bone or cartilage was, full recovery can be expected six weeks after the operation.

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