Arthroscopy is an orthopedic surgery that allows doctors to look inside patient’s joints and make repairs if necessary. It is most commonly used to address problems in the knees, shoulders, or hips.
In an arthroscopic examination, an orthopedic surgeon will make a small incision in the patient’s skin and then insert pencil-sized instruments that contains optical fibers and lenses, to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint. Light is transmitted through fiber optics to the end of the arthroscope that is inserted into the joint.
The arthroscope is connected to a video camera and the interior of the joint is seen on a television monitor. By doing this, the surgeon is able to see the interior of the joint through this very small incision rather than a large incision that would be necessary for open surgery. Because scoping requires only small incisions, it’s labeled a minimally invasive procedure.
The television camera attached to the arthroscope displays the image of the joint on a television screen, allowing the surgeon to look throughout the joint. For example, if the surgeon was looking at a patient’s knee, now the surgeon can see the cartilage, ligaments, and under the kneecap. The surgeon can then determine the type of injury and can repair or correct the problem, if necessary.
Why is arthroscopy necessary?
Diagnosing joint injuries and joint disease starts with a thorough process of tests. Through the arthroscope, a final diagnosis can be made, which may be more accurate than through open surgery or from X-ray result studies.
Reasons to have an arthroscopy procedure:
- Injury of a joint during a sports activity.
- Joint pain that doesn’t respond to conservative therapy such as rest, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication.
- To repair torn ligaments or cartilage.
- To remove cysts in or near a joint.
- To examine a joint for damage.
Disease and injuries can damage bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Some of the most frequent conditions found during arthroscopic examinations of joints are:
For example, synovitis is an inflammation of the lining in the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or ankle.
- Acute or Chronic Injury
Shoulder: Rotator cuff tendon tears, impingement syndrome, and recurrent dislocations
Knee: Meniscal (cartilage) tears, chondromalacia (wearing or injury of cartilage cushion), and anterior cruciate ligament tears with instability
Wrist: Carpal tunnel syndrome
Loose bodies of bone and/or cartilage: for example, knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, or wrist
Scoping offers many advantages over regular surgery, or open surgery. Because scoping a joint includes only a few small incisions, the patient should experience less pain during recovery and a shorter recovery time.