Joint damage that occurs from injury or degenerative joint disease can cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. While nonsurgical treatments can reduce symptoms in many cases, conditions that don’t respond to them can interfere with your quality of life.
Arthroscopy allows an orthopedic surgeon to examine and treat damaged joints. By using several small incisions and high-definition video technology, arthroscopy avoids the need for open surgery, thus reducing the risk for complications and infection.
At Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Metairie, Louisiana, orthopedic surgeon Robert Douglas Bostick III, MD, uses arthroscopic technology to diagnose and treat problems in the shoulder, knee, elbow, hip, ankle, and wrist. In this blog, Dr. Bostick explains how arthroscopy is used and what you can expect during a procedure.
How arthroscopy works
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive type of surgery, which usually means less cutting, less scarring, and less recovery time. Arthroscopy can be used to both diagnose and treat joint issues.
Arthroscopic procedures involve an arthroscope, which is a long, thin tube that has fiber-optic lighting and a miniature camera attached to the end. The camera transmits live images of the joint to a high-definition video screen.
The arthroscope also allows the surgeon to run small surgical tools through it to the treatment site. The orthopedic surgeon uses the images and special tools to examine and treat the damaged joint.
Because the tools are so small, the procedure is administered through incisions no larger than a buttonhole, though the size of the arthroscope will vary depending on the joint being treated. An arthroscope used to treat a wrist can be as small as 0.5 millimeters in diameter, while an arthroscope used to treat a knee will be about 5 millimeters in diameter.
What to expect during arthroscopy
Arthroscopy typically involves no blood loss and few complications. As a result, most arthroscopies are performed on an outpatient basis, which allows the patient to return home on the day of their procedure.
An IV line is typically used to administer fluids and anesthesia. The specific type of anesthesia used can vary depending on the joint being treated, the type of treatment being performed, and the patient’s physical condition. You may receive general, spinal, epidural, regional, or local anesthesia for your arthroscopy.
After the anesthesia takes effect, a small incision large enough to accommodate the arthroscope is made near the joint. Additional small incisions may also be made to accommodate other instruments.
After the procedure, the incisions are typically small enough to be closed with one or two stitches or sterile adhesive tape. The incisions are covered with a surgical dressing, and an elastic bandage wrap or brace is usually placed around the joint.
Recovering from arthroscopy
Before going home, you’ll be provided with instructions for wound care and recovery. Since the incisions will be relatively small, they shouldn’t cause much pain.
Your instructions for post-procedure recovery may include the following:
- Medications to relieve pain and inflammation
- Rest, ice, compression, and elevation to reduce pain and swelling in the joint
- Temporary braces, splints, slings, or crutches to help the treated joint heal
- Physical therapy and/or rehabilitation exercises to improve joint function and strengthen the affected muscles
While it can take the treated joint several weeks to fully recover, you may be able to resume your normal activities within a few days.
Benefits of arthroscopy
Arthroscopy provides excellent access to joints for diagnosis and treatment. When compared to open surgery, arthroscopy involves less risk of damage to the affected joint and surrounding tissue, less risk of infection, and less blood loss.
Furthermore, arthroscopy can provide for quicker healing times and shorter recovery times when compared with open surgery.
To learn more about arthroscopy and to find out if it can treat your joint issue, book an appointment online or over the phone with Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine today.