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Arthroscopy (also called arthroscopic surgery) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which an examination and sometimes treatment of damage of the interior of a joint is performed using an arthroscope, a type of endoscope that is inserted into the joint through a small incision. Arthroscopic procedures can be performed either to evaluate or to treat many orthopedic conditions including torn floating cartilage, torn surface cartilage, ACL reconstruction, and trimming damaged cartilage.


Types of Arthroscopic Surgery

Arthroscopic surgery could potentially be performed on any joint, and as time passes, more and more different joints are being arthroscopically treated. Common types of arthroscopic surgery include:

  • Knee Arthroscopy
  • Shoulder Arthroscopy
  • Hip Arthroscopy
  • Ankle Arthroscopy
  • Elbow Arthroscopy
  • Wrist Arthroscopy

Knee and shoulder arthroscopy are by far the most common arthroscopic procedures performed. These joints are large enough to manipulate the instruments around, and they are amenable to arthroscopic surgery treatments.
Technically speaking, any joint can be arthroscoped. However, the practicality and the instrumentation available limit our ability to arthroscope every joint for all types of problems. The most common arthroscopic procedures include repairing cartilage and meniscus problems in the knee, and repairing rotator cuff tears in the shoulder.


Arthroscopy Procedure

When an arthroscopy is performed, a camera is inserted into the joint through a small incision (about one centimeter). The arthroscopic surgery camera is attached to a fiberoptic light source and shows a picture of the inside of the joint on a television monitor. The surgeon uses fluid pumped through the joint to aid in visibility and clear debris from the joint. One or more other incisions are made to insert instruments that can treat a variety of conditions. For example, a shaver can be inserted to trim torn cartilage from a joint.

Common Arthroscopic Procedures

Many joint problems are amenable to arthroscopic surgery. As mentioned above, knee and shoulder conditions are far more often treated arthroscopically than are other joints; some common arthroscopic procedures include:

  • Arthroscopy surgery of the knee: Trimming and repairing a torn meniscus of the knee
  • Arthroscopy of the shoulder: Treatment of shoulder bursitis
  • Repair of the rotator cuff in the shoulder
  • Treatment of cartilage damage in the knee
  • Treatment of labral tears in the shoulder

However, not all conditions are best treated with arthroscopic procedures. Talk to your doctor about why arthroscopy may or may not help your condition.

Is arthroscopic surgery safe?

Understand that arthroscopic surgery is a surgical procedure and involves risks. These may include infection, blood clots, problems with anesthesia, etc. These are serious risks and the decision to undergo arthroscopic surgery should be taken seriously. That said, arthroscopic surgery is a "less invasive" procedure, and when performed for the right problem it is often very successful. Ask your doctor for more information about arthroscopic surgery, and talk about the possible risks of undergoing the procedure.

Recovery from Arthroscopy

  • Recovery post arthroscopic keyhole surgery is much quicker than from usual open surgery and patients can go home shortly after the procedure.
  • Usually the wound is pain-free but you may be given painkillers to take home to ease any discomfort.
  • Depending on which joint required the procedure, you may need to temporarily use splints, slings or crutches for comfort and protection.
  • For a couple of weeks after arthroscopic operation you may experience some swelling and discomfort. This can sometimes last longer if the treatment has been for arthritis.
  • Most people are able to return to work fairly soon afterwards, usually within a week, but it does depend on the job you do e.g. the time will be longer if your job involves bending, lifting or carrying or will put increased pressure on the joint that has been examined.
  • A doctor or nurse will advise you of what you need to do after the procedure e.g. rest or exercise and can answer any questions you may have regarding sick notes, certificates etc.

Cost of Arthroscopy

Travelling abroad for Arthroscopy can give you access to top quality health care quickly and cheaply. Some of the most sought after destinations include India, Singapore and Thailand, where the main idea is to make your journey absolutely successful - in terms of treatment, in terms of outcomes and in terms of experience.
Cost of Arthroscopy varies depending on the joint on which the surgery is performed such as hip, shoulder, knee etc. It is believed that about 17 in 20 arthroscopic procedures are done on the knee joint, about 2 in 20 involve the shoulder, and a small number are done on other joints including the hip, ankle, elbow, wrist and fingers. So based on the joint the arthroscopy costs differ.

Authored By: Dr. S. V. Santpure

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