Arthroscopy is a orthopedic surgical procedure surgeons use to diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint.
The word arthroscopy comes from the Greek words, “arthro” (joint) and “skopein” (to look). The term literally means “to look within the joint.”
In the arthroscopic examination, an surgeon makes an incision in the skin and then inserts straw-sized instruments that contain a lens and lighting system to illuminate and magnify the structures inside the joint. Light is transmitted through fiber optics to the end of the arthroscope that is placed at the joint
By attaching the arthroscope to a tiny television camera, our orthopedic surgeon is able to see the interior of the joint through this small incision rather than making a large incision needed for surgery.
The television camera displays the image of the joint on a television screen, allowing the orthopedic surgeon to look at joints such as the knee. This lets the surgeon examine the ligaments, cartilage, and under the kneecap. The surgeon can determine the type of injury and then repair or correct the problem, if necessary.
Why is arthroscopy necessary?
Through the arthroscope, a final diagnosis can be made, which may be more accurate than X-ray studies alone.
Disease and injuries can damage ligaments, bones, muscles, cartilage, and tendons.
Some of the most frequent conditions found during arthroscopic examinations of joints are:
- Inflammation – such as inflammation of the lining in the muscles or the wrist, knee, elbow, shoulder,or ankle.
- Acute or Chronic Injury
- Shoulder: Rotator cuff tears, impingement, and recurrent dislocations
- Knee: Meniscal tears, injury of cartilage cushion, and anterior cruciate ligament tears with instability
- Wrist: Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Loose bodies of bone and/or cartilage: in the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, or wrist, for example
Some problems associated with arthritis may also be treated. Some procedures may combine arthroscopic and standard surgery.
- Reconstruction of anterior cruciate ligament in knee
- Repair or resection of torn cartilage (meniscus) from knee or shoulder
- Rotator Cuff Surgery
- Removal of inflamed lining (synovium) in knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, ankle
- Repair of torn ligaments
- Release of carpal tunnel
- Removal of loose bone or cartilage in elbow, knee, ankle, shoulder, or wrist.
Before being discharged, you will be given instructions about care for your incisions, what activities you should avoid, and which exercises you should do to aid your recovery. During the follow-up visit, the surgeon will inspect your incisions; remove sutures, if present; and discuss your rehabilitation program.
The amount of surgery required and recovery time will depend on the complexity of your problem. Occasionally, during arthroscopy, the surgeon may discover that the injury or disease cannot be treated adequately with arthroscopy alone. The extensive “open” surgery may be performed while you are still anesthetized, or at a later date after you have discussed the findings with your surgeon.
What are the possible complications?
Although uncommon, complications do occur occasionally during or following arthroscopy. Infection, phlebitis (blood clots of a vein), excessive swelling or bleeding, and damage to blood vessels or nerves are the most common complications, but occur in far less than 1 percent of all arthroscopic procedures.
What are the advantages?
Although arthroscopic surgery has received a lot of public attention because it is used to treat well-known athletes, it is an extremely valuable tool for all orthopedic patients and is generally easier on the patient than “open” surgery. Most patients have their arthroscopic surgery as outpatients and are home several hours after the surgery.
What will recovery be like after arthroscopy?
The small puncture wounds take several days to heal. The operative dressing can usually be removed the morning after surgery and adhesive strips can be applied to cover the small healing incisions.
Although the puncture wounds are small and pain in the joint that underwent arthroscopy is minimal, it takes several weeks for the joint to maximally recover. A specific activity and rehabilitation program may be suggested to speed your recover and protect future joint function.
It is not unusual for patients to go back to work or school or resume daily activities within a few days. Athletes and others who are in good physical condition may in some cases return to athletic activities within a few weeks. Remember, though, that people who have arthroscopy can have many different diagnoses and preexisting conditions, so each patient’s arthroscopic surgery is unique to that person. Recovery time will reflect that individuality.