What is Arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat of conditions affecting joints. The doctor directly views the internal structures of a joint using an instrument called an arthroscope. An arthroscope is a small, tube shaped instrument that aids in looking inside a joint.
Orthopedic surgeons use arthroscopy to diagnose and treat joint issues. It comprises of a system of lenses, a small video camera, and a light for viewing. The camera is connected to a monitoring system that allows the doctor to view a joint through a very tiny incision. The arthroscope is normally used along with other tools that are inserted through another incision.
The joint most usually examined using arthroscopy is the knee. However, arthroscopy can be used in other joints which include the following:
Why might I need arthroscopy?
An arthroscopic procedure may be used to diagnose and support in the treatment of the following conditions:
• Swelling in the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or ankle
• Injuries, including shoulder rotator cuff tendon tears or impingement syndrome (pinching of tendons in the shoulder caused by the too much squeezing or rubbing of the rotator cuff and shoulder blade)
• Cartilage damage like tears, injury or wear
• Ligament tears with instability in the knee
• Tendon damage
• Carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist
• Loose bone and/or cartilage, mostly in the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, wrist, or hip
Corrective surgery or a biopsy may be carried out using arthroscopy. For example, torn ligaments may be repaired or reconstructed. Arthroscopic surgery may remove the need for open surgery.
There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend an arthroscopy.
What are the risks of arthroscopy?
As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur. Some possible complications can include the following:
• Blood clots in the legs or lungs
There may be other talk about any concerns with your doctor before the procedure.
What happens during arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy can be carried out on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures can vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices. Arthroscopy may be done while you are asleep under general anesthesia, or awake under localized anesthesia. The type of anesthesia will depend on the particular procedure being performed and your medical condition. Your anesthesiologist will talk about this with you in advance.
Generally, an arthroscopic procedure follows this process:
1. You will be asked to take off your clothing and will be given a gown to wear.
2. An intravenous (IV) line can be started in your arm or hand.
3. If there is excessive hair at the surgical site, it may be shaved off.
4. You will be placed on an operating table to provide the finest access to the joint being operated on.
5. The anesthesiologist will continuously watch your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level during the surgery.
6. The skin above the surgical site will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution.
7. The doctor may drain blood from the surgical region by elevating the extremity and/or applying an elastic wrap to the extremity. The doctor may instill a fluid solution (generally a saline solution) before the arthroscope is inserted to assist distend the joint and reduce swelling.
8. The doctor will make an incision in the joint area.
9. The arthroscope will be inserted through the cut or incision, into the joint.
10. Other incisions can be made to introduce other small grasping, probing, or cutting tools.
11. Corrective surgery, if needed, may be performed.
12. The incision will be covered with stitches or adhesive strips.
13. A sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.
What happens after arthroscopy?
After surgery, you will be moved to the recovery room for observation. Your recovery process will vary depending on the kind of anesthesia that is administered. The circulation and sensation of the affected extremity will be observed. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are active, you will be taken to your hospital room or allowed to go home. Arthroscopic surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis.
Once you are home, it’s essential to keep the incision site clean and dry. Your doctor will give you specific bathing instructions. If stitches are used, they will be taken off during a follow-up office visit. If adhesive strips are used, they are to be kept dry and generally will fall off within a few days.
Take a pain relief medicine for soreness as recommended by your doctor. Aspirin or certain other pain medicines can increase the chance of bleeding. Ensure to take only recommended medicines.
Activity and the use of the joint should be limited for 24 to 48 hours after a diagnostic arthroscopy. If other procedures are performed, such as a ligament repair, your activity and use of your joint may be limited for a longer period of time. Your doctor will give you specific instructions. For knee surgery, you can be given an immobilizer to wear. Your doctor may also instruct you to apply ice to the surgical site and to elevate the knee while sitting. Specific instructions will depend on the exact procedure carried out.
Call your doctor to report any of the following:
• Redness, swelling, bleeding or other drainage from the incision site
• Increased pain around the incision site
• Numbness and/or tingling in the affected extremity
You may resume your usual diet unless your doctor advises you differently.
You doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.