Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for diagnosing and treating joint problems, generally affecting the knee, elbow, shoulder, ankle, hip or waist. Arthroscopy X-rays and other imagining studies are often used to identify the exact problems associated with the joint in order to present a proper diagnosis.
A few conditions that can be treated with arthroscopy include the following:
- Loose bone fragments
- Damaged or torn cartilage
- Inflamed joint linings
- Joint infections
- Torn ligaments
- Scarring within joints
A few recommended instructions on how to prepare for arthroscopy surgery include:
- Avoiding taking any medications that can increase the risk of bleeding during surgery
- Avoiding eating solid foods eight hours before surgery
- Arranging for transportation from the hospital to home
- Arranging for home care during recovery after surgery
- Wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing so it is easier to dress after surgery
Though every experience is different depending on the type of surgical procedure and joint in question, most aspects of arthroscopy are fairly regular. During the procedure, a surgeon inserts a narrow tube containing a fiber-optic video camera through a small incision. The camera is conveyed to a video monitor and is able to help guide the surgeon through the surgical procedure. The advantage of arthroscopy over traditional open surgery is that the surgeon is able to view any damage to the joint without making a large incision. The incisions will be small enough so that they can be closed with simply one or two stitches or with narrow strips of sterile adhesive tape.
Like with any surgical procedure, possible risks that can arise from arthroscopy include damage to the tissue, infection or blood clots in the legs or lungs.
After surgery, recovery tends to take about a few hours before a patient is allowed to go home. A few self care measures that are recommended at home include:
- Taking prescribed medications to relieve pain and inflammation
- Resting, icing, compressing and elevating the joint in question for several days in order to relieve pain and swelling
- Using slings or crutches if necessary in order to ease the pain and protect the joint
- Going to physical therapy to do exercises designed to help strengthen the muscles and improve joint function
The surgeon will review the results of the arthroscopy and deliver a written report to the patient as soon as possible. After arthroscopic surgery to treat a joint injury or disease, healing may take several weeks. The patient may be able to perform light tasks within a week, while more demanding activity may be performed after about four weeks. A full recovery tends to take a longer period of time, with the possible need for rehabilitation. Follow up visits with a medical professional are required in order to monitor progress and address any problems.
It is crucial to call the surgeon is any complications occur such as drainage from the incision, redness or swelling, numbness, persistent pain or a high temperature.