Arthroscopy is a procedure for diagnosing and treating joint problems. A surgeon inserts a narrow tube attached to a fiber-optic video camera through a small incision — about the size of a buttonhole. The view inside the joint is transmitted to a high-definition video monitor.
By attaching the arthroscope to a miniature television camera, the surgeon is able to see the interior of the joint this small incision rather than a large incision needed for surgery.
Arthroscopy is recommended if a person has inflammation in a joint, has injured a joint, or has damaged a joint over time. Patients can have arthroscopy on any joint. Most often, it’s done on the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, hip or wrist.
Doctors often turn to arthroscopy if X-Rays and other imaging studies have left some diagnostic questions unanswered.
During the Procedure
The type of Anesthesia used varies by procedure.
- Local Anesthesia – numbing agents are injected below the skin to block sensation in a limited area, such as the knee. The patient will be awake during the arthroscopy, but the most they’ll feel is pressure or a sensation of movement within the joint.
- Regional Anesthesia – the most common form of regional anesthesia is delivered through a small needle placed between two of the spine’s lumbar vertebrae. This numbs the bottom half of the body while the patient remains awake.
- General Anesthesia – depending on the length of the operation, it may be better for the patient to be unconscious during the procedure. General anesthesia is delivered through a vein (intravenously).
After the procedure
Arthroscopic surgery usually doesn’t take long. For example, arthroscopy of the knee takes about an hour. After that, the patient will be taken to a separate room to recover for a few hours before going home.
The patient aftercare may include;
- Medications – the doctor may prescribe medication to relieve pain and inflammation.
- R.I.C.E – At home, may find it helpful to rest, ice, compress and elevate the joint for several days to reduce swelling and pain.
- Protection – patients might need to use temporary splints — slings or crutches for comfort and protection.
- Exercises – the doctor might prescribe physical therapy and rehabilitation to help strengthen the patient’s muscles and improve the function of their joint.
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