No one likes the idea of going under the knife—even if surgery is the best option for relieving joint pain and getting mobility and flexibility back. However, many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that some joint problems can be resolved with arthroscopic surgery—a minimally invasive procedure that can repair damage and reconstruct tissue. If you are suffering from a torn ligament, damaged cartilage, or synovitis in your knee, hip, or ankle joint, the orthopedic surgeons at Northwest Extremity Specialists might be able to repair the damage with an arthroscopic procedure.
What Is Arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy, or arthroscopic surgery, is a procedure that inserts a pencil-sized scope through a small incision to get a better look at the joint without the need for open surgery. A small camera attached to the end of the scope (the camera does not enter the body) displays the image of the joint on a video monitor so that the surgeon can see and assess the cartilage, ligaments, and tendons surrounding the joint. To repair damage inside the joint, the surgeon uses small surgical tools designed for arthroscopic work while viewing a close-up of the damage on the video screen. Since only small incisions are required, there is less risk of bleeding, infection, scarring, and damage to nearby tissue, and patients often experience faster healing, less pain, and a speedier return to regular activities.
What Kinds of Injuries Can Be Repaired With Arthroscopy?
Arthroscopic procedures can be used to repair tendon tears, cartilage damage, ligament tears, inflammation and swelling, and recurrent joint dislocations. Specifically, arthroscopic surgery is often used for the following:
- ACL reconstruction. The anterior cruciate ligament is a major ligament in the knee that is often torn while playing a sport like basketball, soccer, or volleyball. Reconstruction of the torn ligament is recommended if the patient is young or very active. Using an arthroscopic procedure, a surgeon will remove the damaged ligament and replace it with a segment of tendon.
- Rotator cuff repair. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that keeps your arm in your shoulder socket. When those tendons are torn, it can be difficult or impossible to lift your arm. In a rotator cuff repair, the surgeon uses an arthroscope to re-attach the torn tendon to the upper arm bone.
- Meniscus repair. The cartilage that absorbs shock between the femur and the tibia in the knee is called the meniscus. When this tissue is torn, knee movement becomes painful and difficult. In arthroscopic meniscus surgery, the surgeon will either remove, repair, or replace the damaged cartilage.
- Synovium removal. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, it might be determined that removal of the inflamed membrane—known as the synovium—in a joint is the best way to relieve joint pain. This occurs most often in the knee and can often be performed arthroscopically, depending on the extent of the damage.
- Removal of loose fragments. Any one of the above conditions or a bone fracture could result in loose tissue or bone in a joint. These objects can be removed using an arthroscopic procedure.
While using arthroscopy for these procedures can reduce the chances of infection and excessive bleeding and scarring, there will still be a long road to recovery for most patients as they slowly regain the use of the repaired joint. Physical therapy and rehab will be necessary
Is Arthroscopic Surgery Right for You?
While there are definite advantages to an arthroscopic procedure, it's not always an option with every joint surgery. Sometimes, an open procedure is necessary to fully repair a joint. Open surgeries can often be completed more quickly than arthroscopy, and they are technically less difficult to perform. Your orthopedic specialist will recommend the procedure that will ensure the best possible outcome for you, but you can rest assured that our surgeons are qualified and experienced in arthroscopy and will always recommend the least invasive treatment available to ease your pain and get you back in the game.
Contact Northwest Extremity Specialists for More Information About Arthroscopy
Only your doctor can tell you if an arthroscopic procedure is right for you. Call us today at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.