Arthroscopic Diagnosis and Treatment Are Minimally Invasive
As the name implies, arthroscopic procedures involve a “scope” that is used to get a closer look at the inside of the knee joint. When used for diagnosis, a small incision is made in the appropriate part of the knee, and a tiny camera attached to a long tube is inserted into the opening. The doctor guides the camera around the area to locate the injury as the image is projected on a large screen.
In arthroscopic surgery, tiny surgical tools are inserted through another small incision, and the doctor completes the procedure by viewing the screen as he works. Because the incisions are much smaller than in traditional surgery, healing can be faster, and there is less scarring around the knee.
What Knee Injuries Can Arthroscopy Treat?
Knee injuries are common in athletes and older people. While osteoarthritis is one of the most common sources of knee pain among people 50 and older, it cannot usually be treated with arthroscopy. Soft tissue injuries that can be repaired using this minimally invasive technique include:
- Meniscus tears. The menisci are two wedges of rubbery cartilage that cushion the knee joint. They sit inside the joint between the femur and tibia. This cartilage can be torn in a traumatic injury, such as when an athlete twists the joint or falls on a knee, or it can break down over time. Arthroscopy can be used to suture torn cartilage or to remove cartilage that cannot be repaired but is causing pain.
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. A very common injury in young athletes—especially girls due to the natural imbalance in the joint—an ACL tear can sometimes be repaired with an arthroscopic procedure. This ligament provides stability to the knee joint, so when it is compromised, the knee can collapse or buckle at any moment.
- Patellar tendonitis. Sometimes called jumper’s knee, inflammation of the ligament connecting the kneecap to the top of the tibia can become inflamed from overuse, particularly in runners and other athletes. The irritated tissue can tear more easily and can require surgical repair.
- Bursitis. Overuse and repetitive use of the knee can irritate the fluid-filled sacs that provide a cushion between bone and tissue. If rest, physical therapy, and injections have been tried for at least six months with no relief, arthroscopic surgical repair might be an option.
- Synovitis. When the soft tissue known as the synovium becomes swollen and irritated from overuse, it might be necessary to remove the tissue arthroscopically to provide pain relief and restore some mobility.
In addition to soft tissue repairs, arthroscopy can be used to remove tiny bone fragments and pieces of cartilage that come loose when the bones of the knee are fractured. Your orthopedic surgeon will always start with conservative measures but will recommend arthroscopy when it is the best option to relieve your pain and get you back in the game.
Recovering From Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
While recovery from arthroscopic incisions can be fairly quick, the repair work that was done in the knee can take more time to heal. You will likely be ordered to rest with your leg elevated for several days and then will begin physical therapy to slowly reintroduce physical activity. You will need time to regain strength and mobility in your knee.
Discuss Knee Arthroscopy With Our Team
If arthroscopic knee surgery is recommended for you, the skilled orthopedic surgeons at Northwest Extremity Specialists will explain the procedure and expected outcomes. Call us today at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.