What is arthroscopic surgery?

Shoulder, Knee, Knee Pain, Hand and Wrist

 

Arthroscopic Knee SurgeryArthroscopy is a diagnostic and surgical procedure that uses small button-sized incisions to examine or treat medical conditions.

Matt knows first-hand how arthroscopic surgery is used to treat orthopedic injuries.

Six months after breaking his kneecap, Matt's knee locked. He couldn’t bend or extend his leg for a few seconds before it released. Matt never knew when he would experience the painful sensation. And, it happened frequently.

Matt called his orthopedic surgeon for an appointment.

When he went to his doctor, she told him it sounded like a bone fragment had broken loose and floated into his joint, blocking movement. The loose material needed to be surgically removed.

Matt asked about the surgery. His surgeon told him that she would start with arthroscopy. If the fragment could be located and removed using this minimally invasive surgical technique, it would be the best option. But, if she could not find and remove the fragment using the arthroscopic method, she would have to open his knee with a conventional incision. The traditional procedure would cause a long, vertical scar on the front of his knee and increase his recovery time.

Matt agreed to have the surgery.

Since the procedure was relatively straightforward, Matt was scheduled for surgery in the Outpatient Surgical Center. He would check-in, have his surgery, recover, and go home the same day.

Before Matt's surgery, an anesthesiologist administered general anesthesia, so Matt would be comfortable during the operation.

Arthroscopic cameraThe surgeon made a small incision at the top of Matt’s knee. She inserted her arthroscope with a  microscopic camera, called an endoscope, attached. The technology allowed Matt's surgeon to broadcast clear, magnified images from the inside of Matt’s knee onto monitors inside the operating room. She made two more small incisions to accommodate her instruments during the exploratory procedure.

She examined the condition of Matt’s joint as she looked for the bone fragment. After 45 minutes with no results, the surgeon prepared to switch to the more traditional procedure when she noticed a small fragment on the surgical dressing beneath Matt’s knee. The piece of bone that had blocked Matt’s leg movement had flushed out on its own.

With the bone chip removed, Matt's surgeon took one more look for additional fragments. Not finding anything else wrong, she put a stitch in each of the three small incisions around Matt’s knee.

By the end of the next week, Matt began to move his knee. He had to wait for his knee to heal completely before he returned to normal, weight-bearing activities.

Much has changed in the three decades since Matt’s surgery.

Today, arthroscopic technology can be used to repair joint-related injuries.

Originally developed as a diagnostic tool, arthroscopy has evolved to become a minimally invasive surgical procedure.

In addition to using arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips or cartilage fragments, surgeons use arthroscopy to repair injuries to the shoulders, knees, or wrists, such as:

  • Torn rotator cuffs
  • Meniscus, ACL, or PCL injuries
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Arthroscopic procedures are also used in other medical specialties.

Arthroscopy is easier on the patient.Older man and young man playing basketball

Whenever possible, surgeons use the arthroscopic procedures because of their minimally invasive nature. The tiny incisions used during the procedure allow surgeons to access the injured or diseased area without completely severing the nerves, muscles, and other connective tissues. The procedure causes less pain and scarring.

Since smaller incisions do not put as much stress on the body as conventional surgery, patients often recover faster and have better outcomes.

If surgery is in your future, ask your surgeon if you are a good candidate for a minimally invasive procedure. 

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