Not long ago, the idea of looking inside a joint with a tiny camera would have fallen in the realm of science fiction. Now, joint arthroscopy (also called knee and shoulder scopes) has become commonplace for diagnosing and treating many orthopedic problems. This is good news for many people who have painful and debilitating joint conditions.
What is Arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy allows an orthopedic surgeon to insert a pencil-thin instrument into a small incision in your joint (about the size of the hole on a button). The instrument contains a light and a camera, which sends a magnified view of your joint to a computer screen, so your doctor can see the damage and make an accurate diagnosis. Arthroscopy provides more information than an imaging test.
Benefits of arthroscopy
- Less invasive than traditional open surgery
- Patients recover more quickly
- Usually less painful
- Fewer complications
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
If you suffer from any of the following conditions, talk to your doctor to see if arthroscopy is an option for you:
- Rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder
- Joint inflammation
- Pinched nerves
- Shoulder instability (when the cartilage that lines the rim of the shoulder joint— the labrum—tears, the shoulder joint becomes loose and can become dislocated)
- Loose bone or cartilage
- Baker’s cyst (a swollen sac behind the knee filled with fluid)
- Misaligned kneecap
What happens during arthroscopic procedures?
During the procedure, you will receive local or regional (sometimes even general) anesthesia so you are comfortable and don’t feel pain. Your surgeon will inject saline into the joint to inflate the surgical area, keep the view clear, and control bleeding.
Once your surgeon inspects your joint and diagnoses your problem, he/she has the option of also performing arthroscopic surgery to fix the problem. The surgeon will make several other small incisions to insert surgical tools, using the image on the screen to guide the surgery.
Arthroscopic procedures are less invasive than traditional open surgery, which means patients recover more quickly, usually with less pain and fewer complications. However, if your knee or shoulder damage is significant, you may need open surgery to repair it. Arthroscopy is particularly beneficial for people who have rotator cuff injuries, which are common and often debilitating. The muscles and tendons surrounding the ball-and-socket joint of your shoulder are called the rotator cuff. Traditionally, rotator cuff injuries were difficult to treat. Now, surgeons are beginning to successfully employ arthroscopic procedures to repair these injuries.
Risks from arthroscopy
Fortunately, arthroscopic procedures are very safe, but, like any medical procedure, there are always potential risks. They include an allergic reaction to the anesthesia, damage to the cartilage or ligaments, excessive bleeding, a blood clot in the leg, infection, joint stiffness, or injury to a blood vessel or nerve.
What happens after arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy is performed as an outpatient procedure, which means you will return home the same day. It will take several days or a week for your incision to heal and you’ll likely experience some pain and discomfort for at least a week. Your doctor may recommend stabilizing the joint as it heals and post-operative rehabilitation to regain your strength and mobility in the joint.
If you have a knee or shoulder problem that is not responding to non-invasive treatment, such as medications or physical therapy, ask your doctor if arthroscopy is right for you. To schedule an appointment, please call 888-452-IRMC.