Minimally Invasive Foot and Ankle Procedures Help Athletes and Weekend Warriors Alike Get Back to Sport

CU Medicine orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hunt shares how the latest advancements in minimally invasive foot and ankle procedures are helping patients recover faster and with less pain.

More athletes are returning to the game faster than ever thanks to innovative advancements in minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery. These cutting-edge techniques allow doctors to treat injuries that once benched players for entire seasons with smaller incisions, shorter recovery times and a fraction of the pain.

Leading the way in this field is Dr. Kenneth Hunt, an orthopedic surgeon at CU Medicine Orthopedics and Sports Medicine – Steadman Hawkins Clinic and associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. As the chief of foot and ankle in the department of orthopedics and the director of the UCHealth Foot and Ankle Center, Hunt possesses specialized expertise in arthroscopy, endoscopy and other minimally invasive foot and ankle procedures that compress recovery periods from months to weeks. His skill has put numerous professional athletes back on the field after debilitating injuries and given weekend warriors relief from chronic issues like tendonitis.

We sat down with Hunt to discuss the promising future of minimally invasive surgery for foot and ankle injuries. From the techniques he employs to the rapid recoveries he facilitates, he shares insights for athletes of all levels.

Minimally invasive foot and ankle techniques

“There have been a lot of advancements in the last 5-10 years with minimally invasive procedures for the foot and ankle,” shares Dr. Hunt. These advancements are mainly in the areas of arthroscopy, endoscopic surgery and percutaneous surgery.


Arthroscopy involves inserting a small camera into the joint to provide visual guidance while surgical instruments are inserted through other tiny incisions. The surgeon can then repair tissues and examine the joint for injuries.

Endoscopic Surgery

Endoscopic surgery uses an endoscope, a small camera attached to a tube, inserted through tiny incisions. It allows surgeons to see inside without large incisions. Other instruments can also be inserted to repair structures.

Percutaneous Surgery

In percutaneous surgery, a thin surgical implement is inserted through the skin to access structures underneath. No cutting or stitching is required, minimizing tissue disruption. Instruments like wires, pins or screws can be guided to stabilize or repair injuries.

Benefits of minimally invasive foot surgery

Minimally invasive surgical procedures offer numerous advantages over traditional open foot and ankle surgery.

First, the tiny incisions minimize cutting through muscle, ligament and other soft tissue structures surrounding bones and joints. Endoscopic and arthroscopic approaches also reduce necessary tissue retraction further decreasing trauma. Less tissue disruption facilitates faster healing with less post-operative pain.

“Minimally invasive means there’s a much smaller incision used to access a space that traditionally would require a much larger incision,” explains Dr. Hunt. “In addition to a smaller cosmetic scar, the multiple layers of tissue we cut to access a joint, bone or tendon is benefitting from these smaller incisions by resulting in less deep scar formation, stiffness and pain.”

With less overall surgical impact, patients can regain mobility in their foot or ankle within days or several weeks faster than open procedures. The shortened rehab periods get professional athletes back on the field sooner to play full seasons without lasting damage.

Likewise, weekend warriors can return to their favorite activities more quickly with less downtime. Ultimately, the reduced tissue disruption and swelling of minimally invasive surgery compresses recovery with athletes resuming training and competing more rapidly.

Common foot and ankle injuries

Achilles tendon rupture

Achilles tendon rupture repair traditionally used to require a 6cm-10cm incision. “Now, we can do this surgery with a 2cm incision and repair the tendon with far less tissue dissection,” shares Dr. Hunt who commonly performs this procedure on athletes.

Injuries of the big toe

Problems with the big toe joint are common in athletes and traditionally addressing this joint requires a large incision. “We used to need to use saws, mallets and chisels to repair this joint,” says Dr. Hunt. “Now, that’s not the case. We can access and repair issues in the big toe joint with a small camera and use small precise tools to address injuries and painful conditions.”

Achilles tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis represents a frequent injury plaguing runners marked by inflammation near the heel bone. Dr. Hunt has helped to pioneer a minimally invasive procedure helping runners get back to sport quicker and with less pain. 

“I’ve developed an arthroscopic technique allowing access into the space around the Achilles tendon to eliminate multiple factors,” Dr. Hunt shares. “This mitigates the causative factors which are the bone spur and bursitis and the result which is the inflamed tendon.” 

Schedule an appointment

Advancements in less invasive foot and ankle surgical techniques continue transforming injury recovery for athletes of all ages and skill levels. Under expert guidance from physicians like Dr. Kenneth Hunt, minimally invasive arthroscopic and endoscopic procedures compress rehab from months to mere weeks.

Patients suffering from chronic ankle instability, tendonitis or undiagnosed foot or ankle pain should understand their options by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Hunt at CU Medicine Orthopedics and Sports Medicine - Steadman Hawkins Clinic. Call (303) 694-3333 today to learn more.


CATEGORIES: Orthopedics

This post was originally posted on 3/11/2024