Whenever you see the prefix “arthro” or “arthri” in medical terms, you know the full word relates to joints, whether it’s an injury, disease, or treatment. When orthopedic surgeon James J. Reid, MD, recommends arthroscopy, it’s to diagnose and/or treat a joint issue. Most commonly, it’s used to help with a problem in an ankle, knee, hip, wrist, elbow, or shoulder.
Originally, open surgery was the primary way to work on joints. Even after the development of diagnostic imaging like X-rays, the complexity of joints often meant that a surgeon needed to see things inside a joint with greater clarity. Large incisions could open up the area around a joint, but at the cost of damaging healthy muscles and other tissues to gain a direct line of sight.
How an arthroscope works
Knowing that “arthro” relates to joints, adding “scope” obviously means that an arthroscope is a device used to look at joints. That’s how it was first developed. Older readers may remember a time when open knee surgery often meant the end of an athlete’s season, if not their career.
The arthroscope allowed a surgeon to see inside the joint to identify problems before performing open surgery. Instead of long incisions, the arthroscope requires an opening that’s only about half an inch long. Originally, the arthroscope was part of the diagnostic process to see if surgery was the right treatment.
As the technology developed, specialized tools emerged that could be inserted into the arthroscope tube, or another like it. Repairs could now be done through the arthroscope incision or through additional keyhole openings nearby.
Reasons to consider arthroscopy
Even with advances to diagnostic imaging like computerized tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), sometimes there’s still no view inside a joint as clear as the surgeon’s eye. Injury, inflammation, or degenerative diseases like arthritis can all cause joint issues that don’t show clearly on X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs.
Instead of tracking down a problem with several rounds of testing, Dr. Reid may head to the arthroscope to evaluate the extent of joint damage present. Perhaps the biggest bonus of arthroscopy is that he can make repairs at the same time as he diagnoses the joint. When pinpointing an issue, he may be able to repair it immediately.
That’s far from the only reason to consider arthroscopy. Most of the issues relating to recovery from open surgery concern the healthy tissue that’s cut to provide a clear view of a joint. You may spend more time and pain recovering from muscle tissue damage than from the joint repair itself.
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical technique. Damage to healthy tissue is minimal. In some cases, muscles and other tissue are pushed aside rather than cut. Small incisions add up to big improvements like:
- Less pain
- Reduced bleeding
- Faster healing
- Lower risks of infection
- Quick recovery
- Less reliance on pain medications
Often, your return to activity can be within 24 hours of your procedure, with certain limits. A quick return to mobility typically supports healthy blood flow, a key component to the recovery process.
Find out more about arthroscopy and how it can help you. Book a consultation with Dr. Reid and his team by phone or online today.