Joint issues can be diagnosed using imaging tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans, along with a thorough medical history. To get the most definitive diagnosis, arthroscopy may be recommended. Arthroscopy is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures by orthopedic surgeons to diagnose and treat issues inside of a joint. It is minimally invasive and allows the surgeon to look inside your joint with a simple small incision. The procedure is performed using an instrument called an arthroscope containing a lens and light which allows the surgeon to examine and repair the joint while viewing it on a screen. Though other tests may be used to help diagnose a problem in a joint, such as X-rays or MRI, being able to get inside the joint with an arthroscope can provide a final and more accurate diagnosis. Depending on the problem, the surgeon may also be able to repair any damage during the arthroscopic surgery.
Arthroscopy is where the surgeon makes a definitive diagnosis of various joint conditions as it allows them to see the joint from the inside. Arthroscopic examination is used to examine the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, ankle or foot. Arthroscopic surgery is one way of providing the opportunity to help the recovery process using only small incisions, unlike traditional open surgery. This allows the patient to a faster recovery time since there is less trauma to the connective tissue and less scarring.
After surgery, you will be given instructions on how to care for your incisions along with what activities you need to avoid. You may be given exercises to help with your recovery. Recovery time varies from person to person depending on the extent of your injury and the work done during the procedure. You’ll be asked to attend a follow-up appointment with your primary care physician who will inspect your incisions and remove stitches, if any. During this appointment the physician may also talk to you about rehabilitation.
You will need to be sedated for the arthroscopy, and we use general anesthesia to accomplish this. On some occasions, we may also add a nerve block to stop you from feeling any pain for a few hours after the surgery, but this is not always required. Since our procedures are minimally invasive, your pain levels should be manageable regardless of the nerve block. General anesthesia is administered through an IV, placed before your procedure. A small incision, approximately the size of a buttonhole, will be made in order to insert the arthroscope. This will allow the doctor to view the inside of your joint. Other small incisions may be made if the surgeon requires a look at other parts of the joint or to insert other instruments to repair damage. Arthroscopic surgery may take from 30 minutes to two hours depending on what repair is required. Once completed, the incisions will be closed using one or two stitches or thin pieces of sterile tape, and then covered with dressing. You will then be moved to a recovery room where you will be monitored for a few hours before being discharged.
Knee Arthroscopy Conditions and Symptoms Treated
Along with being able to treat your knee pain and stiffness, knee arthroscopy can also diagnose and treat several knee conditions, including:
- Torn meniscus
- Dislocated patella
- Tear of the anterior or posterior cruciate ligaments
- Baker’s cyst
- Synovium swelling
- Loose cartilage fragments
Hip Arthroscopy Conditions and Symptoms Treated
Hip arthroscopy allows the surgeon to visualize the hip joint and identify bad mechanics and any issues that may cause excessive rubbing, interfering with the joint’s ability to move freely. The procedure is used to treat the following conditions:
- Labral tears
- Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI)
- Loose bone or cartilage fragments
Symptoms that may be relieved by hip arthroscopy include:
- Hip pain
- Groin pain
- Joint stiffness
- Muscle weakness
Shoulder Arthroscopy Conditions and Symptoms Treated
Shoulder arthroscopy can be used to treat several conditions of the shoulder, including:
- Rotator cuff tears
- Bone spurs
- Torn ligaments
- Labral tear
- Loose cartilage
- Shoulder instability
- Nerve entrapment
The symptoms that can be relieved by the procedure include:
- Shoulder pain
The exact preparation needed for your arthroscopy will depend on which part of the body is being examined or repaired. In most cases the following preparation instructions will apply:
- Avoid certain medications and supplements. Some medications and dietary supplements can increase the risk of bleeding. You may be asked to stop taking certain medications or supplements in the days before surgery.
- Consult with your physician. If you are taking any drugs or might have an illness, you should discuss this with your physician prior to surgery.
- No food or drink for 6 – 12 hours beforehand. How long you’re required to fast before the procedure will depend on the type of anesthesia being used. Failing to fast the time advised could result in the postponement of your procedure.
You will receive pre and post-op instructions to follow. Ask questions and take the time to understand what you need to do as failing to follow your preparation instructions may result in postponing your surgery to a later date.