Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure that allows doctors to view a joint in greater detail than what can be seen from imaging tests such as X-rays and MRI scans. It involves the use of special instruments and smaller incisions than what’s typically required for more invasive procedures. Arthroscopic surgery may be performed to make a diagnosis, assess damage to a joint, or treat a joint or nearby structures and tissues.
How is Arthroscopic Surgery Performed?
Arthroscopic surgery is performed with special instruments, a small camera, and a lighting system. The real-time images from the joint are transmitted onto a monitor the doctor can view to see what’s going on within the joint. It’s often an outpatient procedure.
What is a Diagnostic Arthroscopy?
When done for diagnostic purposes, arthroscopic surgery is usually combined with a thorough patient evaluation and other diagnostic attempts, including image testing and electrodiagnostic testing to evaluate nerves and muscles around joints. In some cases, an arthroscopy is performed to make a final diagnosis and fine-tune a patient’s treatment plan.
What Conditions May Be Arthroscopically Treated?
Disease and injuries that can affect bones, joints, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and tendons may be treated with arthroscopic surgery. The procedure is sometimes performed on patients with inflammation-based conditions such as synovitis, a condition that affects the lining of wrist, ankle, shoulder, and knee joints. Arthroscopy can also be performed to treat:
- Acute and chronic shoulder and knee injuries
- Loose bone and cartilage in elbows, knees, shoulders, or ankles
- Carpal tunnel syndrome affecting hands and wrists
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Torn ligaments
Candidates for Arthroscopy
Patients of all ages may see meaningful results. However, a study on hip impingement suggests the procedure may also benefit younger patients with joint damage. Surgery of this nature has gained popularity in recent years because of its use on athletes looking to have less invasive procedures that will minimize their downtime. Knee arthroscopy, in particular, is common among athletes. Patients who are ideal candidates for this type of surgery may benefit from:
- Fewer surgical risks
- Better responses to rehab
- Less unintentional damage to nearby tissues and muscles
Because minimally invasive techniques are used, healing from arthroscopy usually takes several days. Recovery may take longer if the damage was extensive or if there are multiple issues with the joint. Results will also depend on a patient’s overall health and whether or not there are underlying conditions involved. Some patients may also benefit from follow-up physical therapy exercises.