An arthroscopy is a surgical procedure used for identifying problems in the bones and joints, as well as rectifying any defects in the connective tissues. This procedure is employed to detect issues in the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, ankles, wrists in the body. It is rather useful in determining the root cause of the problem, when imaging scans like X-rays are unable to spot the reason for joint pain, inflammation, difficulty moving the limbs.
The major advantage of arthroscopy is that it provides a clear internal view of the affected joint without the doctor/surgeon requiring to create a large incision in the area. Moreover, if the bone and joint problem is minor, then the medical practitioner can fix the flaws in the affected parts during the arthroscopy process itself, doing away with more complex or advanced surgeries for the patient.
Why It Is Done?
An arthroscopy procedure is used to detect, diagnose and treat conditions affecting the bones and joints. These comprise:
- Identifying the exact cause of the bone and joint problem when X-rays do not portray the in-depth details
- Viewing the interior regions of the joints of the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists, ankles with improved precision
- Gauging the extent of damage to bones and joints in instances of sports injuries, as well as debilitating disorders like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis
- Rectifying loose bone fragments or removing them from the body
- Repairing damaged or torn cartilage
- Eliminating surplus fluids that may have accumulated in the joints
- Treating bone and joint problems such as torn ligaments/torn meniscus, arthritis, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome
- Resolving issues of inflammation/scarring in the joints
An arthroscopy is performed by a doctor/surgeon in a well-equipped clinic or hospital. Prior to the procedure, the patient should not take any potent prescription medications, as well as not eat any solid foods 8 hours before by remaining on a fasting phase. The individual is also advised to bring along a family member to take them back home safely after the protocol, since the anaesthesia may make them dizzy, besides wear loose comfortable clothing.
The nurse then instructs the patient to don on the clean hospital gown, following which a mild sedative is injected in the forearm via an intravenous catheter. The anaesthesia performed can be general – desensitizing the whole body and making the person unconscious or local – numbing only specific parts of the body.
While lying on the back or side, the limb to be examined/treated is placed at an angle on a positioning device. Then, a small incision is created at the bone/joint and the apparatus called arthroscope – composed of a narrow tube affixed to a fiber optic video camera - is inserted at that juncture. Accurate images of the internal bone and joint structures are then transmitted to a high-definition video monitor. Depending on the nature of joint damage, further repair procedures may also be carried out.
After the procedure, the arthroscope is carefully removed from the region in the joints and the incision is mended with stitches and covered with a sterile dressing. The entire arthroscopy procedure takes between 30 minutes to 2 hours based on if only diagnostic tests are being done or if additional surgical repair also has to be performed. The patient can go home after the procedure, but has to rest for a few days to one week before resuming physical tasks. If intense pain or swelling occurs post the procedure, then the doctor recommends R.I.C.E – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation methods, physical therapy sessions and prescription analgesic medications to alleviate joint aches and discomfort.
In general, an arthroscopy is a safe procedure, with minimum to no risk of harmful complications. However, in some cases, certain risks and side effects do arise, including:
- Joint stiffness, with swelling and bruising at the point of incision
- In rare situations, blood clots in the legs or lungs
- Infections stemming from the bones and joints, which can become septic and induce fever, joint pain and inflammation
- In seldom instances, accidental damage to the nerves in the areas surrounding the joints
The results of the arthroscopy are provided by the doctor usually within 1 – 2 days post the procedure. Depending on the bone and joint disorder or structural defect identified, the doctor recommends the appropriate course of treatment with either prescription medications or surgery or both. The healthcare provider continues to monitor the symptoms in the patient and helps to effectively treat the bone and joint condition in follow-up consultations, so as to restore optimal mobility in the affected individual.