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Arthroscopy (key-hole) surgery of joints

The word arthroscopy comes from two Greek words, "arthro" (joint) and "skopein" (to look). The term literally means "to look within the joint." During  arthroscopy, the surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen, and the surgeon uses these images to guide miniature surgical instruments into the joint and perform the necessary procedure.

Because the arthroscope and surgical instruments are thin, your surgeon can use very small incisions (cuts), rather than the larger incision needed for standard, open surgery. This results in less pain for patients, and shortens the time it takes to recover and return to favourite activities.

The arthroscopy is carried out using keyhole sized incisions, where only small cuts are made in the skin. The procedure is most commonly used on the knees, shoulders, wrists, elbows and ankles.If you have problems with your joints, such as swelling, stiffness, instability or limited function, and initial imaging tests have not been able to find what is causing the problem, an arthroscopy might be recommended to look at the inside of the joint.As well as allowing a surgeon to look inside a joint and diagnose, an arthroscopy can also be used to treat a range of problems and conditions. For example, an arthroscopy can be used to:

Repair damaged cartilage,remove fragments of loose bone or cartilage,treat stiff joints, like in frozen shoulder and knee stiffness,Repair or reconstruct damaged ligaments like in ACL tear of the knee,Restore joint stability like in case of recurrent shoulder dislocations,Clean the joint as in cases of infection,Even assist fixation of certain types of fractures close to the joint.

What happens during an arthroscopy?

  • An arthroscopy is usually carried out under general anaesthetic wherein the patient is unconscious fully or a regional anaesthesia, wherein only the operating area is made numb and pain freew.
  • A piece of equipment called the arthroscope is used.
  • An arthroscope is a small, flexible tube that is about the length and width of a drinking straw. Inside there is a bundle of fibre optics. These act as both a light source and a camera. Images are sent from the arthroscope to a video screen so that the surgeon is able to see the joint.
  • It is also possible for tiny surgical instruments to be passed through an arthroscope to allow the surgeon to treat conditions or problems such as those listed above.
  • The surgeon will make small incisions over the joint so that the arthroscope can be inserted. One or more small incisions will also be made to allow an examining probe or, if necessary, other surgical instruments, to be inserted. The inside of the joint is visualised on the screen and the procedure is carried out after introducing sterile fluid into the joint.
  • An arthroscopy is usually performed on a day-case or a over-night stay basis, which means that the person being treated is able to go home on the same day as the surgery, or the very next day.

Advantages of Arthroscopic Surgery

  • Less Post-operative pain.
  • Faster healing time.
  • Reduced risk of infection.
  • It can be performed on a day-case /overnight stay basis, which means that you do not have to spend days in hospital