Medical terminology can sometimes be frustrating, especially if you’ve seen specialists who don’t take the time to explain the basics. We believe it is always beneficial to equip yourself with a basic understanding of procedures you or your loved one must go through. In this article, we explain arthroscopy, which is a commonly performed and very safe procedure.
What is Arthroscopy?
- Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure orthopaedic surgeons perform on joints in order to visualise, diagnose, and treat problems inside said joint.
- Word origin: The word arthroscopy is derived from the two Greek words, “arthro” (joint) and “skopein” (to look). This means that arthroscopy literally means “to look within the joint.”
Is arthroscopy invasive?
- No, arthroscopy is classified as a keyhole surgery, which means it is minimally invasive. The less invasive the surgery, the quicker the healing process, as well as there is significantly less chance of scarring.
Will I have to go to sleep (general anaesthetic)?
- You will have an anaesthetist who will be in charge of administering a general anaesthetic so that the surgery can be performed while you are asleep. Ankle arthroscopy can be done under local anaesthetic; however, it isn’t always successful in numbing the area. So, in the case of failed local anaesthetic, general anaesthetic would then need to be used.
How does the procedure work?
- Firstly, the anaesthetist puts the patient to sleep and often uses a local anaesthetic on the area to reduce swelling and pain post-surgery.
- A small incision is made and an instrument, which contains a video camera, is inserted into the joint to allow examination of the inside. The instrument is the size of a pencil, so the incision is only small.
- The probes and instruments used are specially designed. They contain a small lens and lighting system to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint.
When is arthroscopy needed?
- Arthroscopy of the ankle (for example) is usually done after an injury which is failing to settle and where there seems to be damage to the ligaments, lining or surfaces of the ankle.
- Arthroscopy is also done to see how arthritic a joint is, or to treat arthritis by stiffening the joint.
Why is arthroscopy needed?
- The little camera attached to the arthroscope, which is inside your joint, displays the image of the joint on a television screen. The surgeon can then see an enlarged image of the affected area. This allows the surgeon to see the cartilage, ligaments, and in knees, to see under the kneecap. With this information, the surgeon can then determine the amount or type of injury.
- Arthroscopy means the surgeon is able to see the interior of the joint through a very small incision rather than a large incision needed for surgery.
- Arthroscopy is also a minimally invasive way to remove loose fragments from the inside of the ankle and other joints.
How long does an arthroscopy procedure normally take?
- The procedure is relatively quick, taking between 20 – 40 minutes depending on what needs to be done.
- Surgery is usually performed as a Day Case procedure so that you will usually be able to go home 2 – 4 hours after the operation.
We hope you’ve found this article educational and easy to understand. We aim to make orthopaedic terminology and procedures more widely understood. Like always, if you have any questions regarding arthroscopy and what you have read in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact us.