What is arthroscopic surgery?
Arthroscopy (AHR-THROS-KUH-PEE) is a medical term that simply means, “to look inside a joint”. Arthroscopic surgery is an example of Minimally Invasive Surgery, using a small surgical tool called an arthroscope that is equipped with a camera. This allows the surgeon to visualize the affected joint including the bones, cartilage, and the surrounding ligaments and same of the tendons. Direct visualization with an arthroscope permits minimal incision size and maximum precision in solving the underlying problem. A finger arthroscope is about 1.9mm in diameter, which is less than one quarter of the diameter of a pencil. A wrist arthroscope is 2.5mm in diameter, which is less than one third of the diameter of a pencil. An elbow arthroscope is 4mm in diameter, which is about one half of the diameter of a pencil.
Why is arthroscopic surgery performed?
Arthroscopic surgery is performed after other treatments have been tried without success. It can be used diagnostically to complement x-rays and scans. Compared to open surgery arthroscopic surgery requires much smaller incisions. Recovery time is generally faster and not as painful. Many joint conditions caused by falls, arthritis and sports injuries can be diagnosed and repaired with arthroscopic surgery.
How is the surgery performed?
The surgery is performed under local or regional anesthesia. After anesthesia takes effect, the surgeon makes a very small incision in the skin to allow passage of the arthroscope. The arthroscope is equipped with a mini-magnifying lens and video camera. Images from the camera are projected on a screen, allowing the surgeon to clearly see the joint and make an accurate diagnosis of the problem. A couple more small incisions may be needed to perform the surgery, to get a better look at the entire joint, and to make repairs using tiny instruments, thermal shrinkage devices, suture anchors, pins and tiny screws.
Where will the surgery be done?
Arthroscopic surgery takes place in an outpatient surgery center, free standing or part of a medical center. The patient is discharged to home the same day.
How long does it take to recover?
Recovery usually varies from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the extent of damage present and repairs needed. Generally, minor swelling, pain and stiffness can be expected following surgery. Elevating the affected extremity above the heart will help reduce the swelling. The small incisions take less than one week to heal and are kept clean and dry. Bandages remain in place, as instructed by the surgeon. Physical or occupational therapy and exercises may be used to speed up recovery and increase range of motion, reduce pain, and improve strength, endurance and coordination.
What are some complications of arthroscopic surgery?
Complications of arthroscopic surgery are uncommon. Some stiffness often occurs. This is minimized with elevation of the hand above the heart and exercises directed by the surgeon. Concerns are routinely addressed preoperatively.
Arthroscopic surgery is the kind of procedure used to diagnosis and treat a variety of joint injuries and conditions. Recovery time is generally faster and less painful than open surgery. Because the surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure, this reduces traditional costs. Talk to your doctor about whether arthroscopic surgery might be right for you.
Why Arthroscopic Surgery?
Arthroscopy can be used to both diagnose and treat the cause of joint pain if physical examination, laboratory texts, X-rays, scans and conservative treatments prove inconclusive or ineffective.
How Arthroscopic Surgery Works
A pencil-thin (or smaller) arthroscope equipped with an extra-articular camera head enters the joint through a small incision in the skin, while surgical instruments enter through one or more similar incisions strategically placed according to the area of intervention and type of procedure planned. Via the camera head, the doctor is able to clearly see the joint bones as well as the cartilaginous and ligamentous structures on a screen, enabling accurate diagnosis and treatment of the presenting issue.
Normally arthroscopic surgery requires only local or regional anesthesia and a sedative, making it an outpatient procedure.