What is Arthroscopy?

Greek word for joints is “Arthros”, and Greek word for looking is “Scope”, so arthroscopy means looking in to the joints. Since this is done through a small cut it is commonly known as a minimally invasive surgery or a key hole surgery.It can be performed on many joints like shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle joints, though shoulder and knee are the commonest.

Why Arthroscopy?

When investigating the conditions of the joints it is very helpful  to be able to look inside the joint in order to see exactly what is going on in addition to examining the joint from outside. It is done with special equipment. Operative procedures for any abnormalities can be done through a second small cut. It is routinely done as a planned procedure as a day case, but some times it is done as a matter of urgency, for example following injury to a joint like a twisted swollen knee joint.

What are the advantages?

a) Small incisions and small scars.

b) Less tissue damage and less chance of infection.

c) Less pain and disability after surgery and patient can return to sedentary work almost immediately and to more vigorous work with in 1 to 2 weeks.

d) Better diagnosis of many joint problems.

e) Most procedures can be performed as out patient basis. If hospitalisation is required most procedures need 1-2 days of stay compared to several days of stay with open procedures.

f) Some procedures can be done better with arthroscopic surgery and perhaps for some that is the only way they can be done.

Preparation for surgery

After deciding to proceed with arthroscopy some basic blood tests are done and patient’s fitness is assessed. Like any other surgery patients would be asked not to eat or drink any for at least 6 hours prior to surgery. Patients can watch the surgery if it is done under regional anaesthesia.

After surgery

Prescription would be given for pain killer tablets and other medicines as necessary. The joint needs to be rested a little for a couple of days but like in case of arthroscopy of the knee joint you can walk to and from the toilet with crutches but to avoid excessive use of the joint. One important aspect is physiotherapy to get full movement in the joint and to strengthen the muscles around the joints. Within the limits of pain these exercises can be started as soon as possible after surgery. You would be asked to visit the hospital after 2 days for a change of dressing.

Exercises for the knee

The exercises can be carried out many times in a day.  Start with 4 repetitions of each exercise,increasing to as many as you feel able to do without getting any pain.

Sit reclining with your legs supported.

a) Keeping your legs straight, pull your toes up towards you and brace the muscles at the front of the thigh, pushing the back of your knee as flat as possible.

b) Place a rolled towel under your knee. Pull your toes up towards you and tighten the thigh muscles, lifting your heel to straighten your knee fully. Hold for 5, and then relax slowly.

c) Repeat exercise a, but this time lift your leg approximately 6 inches off the bed, keeping the knee braced and completely straight.  Hold for 5, and then lower slowly.

d) You must regain the flexibility in your knee once the pain starts settling. Bend your knee, pulling your heel towards your bottom as far as possible, and then straighten. 

When you had any other reconstructive surgery like ligament and meniscal surgery post operative care and advice will be different. Similarly arthroscopy of shoulder would be followed up by specific exercises depending upon the type surgery.

Common conditions needing Arthroscopy

Knee Arthroscopy:

A torn meniscus ( to repair or remove), a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). For removal or biopsy of inflamed or damaged lining of the joint (synovium), Misalignment of the kneecap (patella), Small pieces of broken cartilage and loose bodies in the knee joint, Removal of Baker's cyst(a swelling behind the knee that is filled with fluid), Some fractures of the bones of the knee. Washing the knee which is constantly sore due to arthritis can also be beneficial.

Hip Arthroscopy:

  • Labral Tears, Loose Bodies,Snapping Hip Syndrome (something is catching within the hip joint)
  • Cartilage Damage with a small flap tears can benefit.

Shoulder Arthroscopy:

Arthroscopy of the shoulder may be recommended for infective arthritis (septic lesions), biceps tear, SLAP lesions, Rotator cuff lesions, impingement syndrome, recurrent dislocation of shoulder and other instability problems with or without hyperlaxity, Frozen shoulder, loose bodies etc. Problems associated with the other joints in shoulder joint complex i.e. subacromial joint, acromio-clavicular joint are also easily examined giving access to rotator cuff lesions, acromion pathology and clavicular problems.