Jan 12, 2009
Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure. During arthroscopic surgery an orthopedic surgeon uses a television camera to look inside a joint, and diagnose and treat the problems that are encountered.
The word arthroscopy comes from two Greek words, "arthro" (joint) and "skopein" (to look). The term literally means "to look within the joint." In an arthroscopic examination, an orthopedic surgeon makes a small incision in the patient's skin and then inserts pencil-sized arthroscope inside the joint. Light is transmitted through fiber optics to the end of the arthroscope that is inserted into the joint. By attaching the arthroscope to a miniature television camera, the surgeon is able to see the interior of the joint through this very small incision rather than a large incision needed for surgery.
Although the inside of nearly all joints can be viewed with an arthroscope, six joints are most frequently examined with this instrument. These include the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, hip, and wrist. Perhaps the most common procedures are repair of removal torn cartilage, and reconstruction of torn ligaments. As advances are made by engineers in electronic technology and new techniques are developed by orthopedic surgeons, other joints may be treated more frequently in the future.
Although arthroscopic surgery has received a lot of public attention because it is used to treat well-known athletes, it is an extremely valuable tool for all orthopedic patients and is generally easier on the patient than "open" surgery. Most patients have their arthroscopic surgery as outpatients and are home several hours after the surgery.
The small puncture wounds take several days to heal. The operative dressing can usually be removed the morning after surgery and adhesive strips can be applied to cover the small healing incisions.
Although the puncture wounds are small and pain in the joint that underwent arthroscopy is minimal, it takes several weeks for the joint to maximally recover. A specific activity and rehabilitation program may be suggested to speed your recover and protect future joint function.
It is not unusual for patients to go back to work or school or resume daily activities within a few days. Athletes and others who are in good physical condition may in some cases return to athletic activities within a few weeks. Remember, though, that people who have arthroscopy can have many different diagnoses and preexisting conditions, so each patient's arthroscopic surgery is unique to that person. Recovery time will reflect that individuality.