Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally-invasive approach to surgery that uses small incisions and special instruments including a surgical device called an arthroscope to perform repairs in damaged joints without the need for large incisions. Arthroscopes contain tiny cameras that are used to take “real time” magnified and highly-detailed images of the surgical site. Those images are transmitted to a video screen where they can be viewed by the surgeon. The surgeon uses those images to guide the instruments and perform the repairs. Arthroscopy can also be used to evaluate and diagnose issues to help determine the best course of care.
Because arthroscopy requires much smaller incisions than traditional surgery, there's far less tissue damage and bleeding, which means healing is faster and the risk of complications is reduced. In addition, patients experience else discomfort during healing and in most cases, can return to their normal activities more quickly.
Once the surgical site is cleansed, small incisions are made near the joint tp provide access for the arthroscope and surgical instruments. Sterile saline solution usually is injected into the joint to gently expand it so viewing and treatment are easier. The surgeon will use the images projected onto the video screen to guide the surgery. Once the procedure is complete, the incision sites will be closed using a few sutures or in some cases a surgical adhesive. A special compression bandage may be applied to keep the area clean and promote initial stages of healing. Many arthroscopic procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis.
Arthroscopy can be used for many joint injuries, but it's not always the best approach. Prior to any surgical treatment, the joint will be thoroughly evaluated to determine the best approach. Most arthroscopic procedures are restricted to the knee, hip or shoulder, but they can also be used to treat issues affecting the ankle and wrist.
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