Arthroscopy is a surgical way to view, make diagnoses and repair joints. During an arthroscopic procedure, the surgeon uses a tool the diameter of a pencil with a camera on the end, called an endoscope. This provides magnification for the surgeon view the area on a high-definition video monitor. The endoscope and specialized tools access the joint and make repairs through small incisions.
Arthroscopy improves access and visibility
You can have arthroscopy on any joint. However, the most common surgeries are on the shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, hip, ankle and foot. “The best cases for arthroscopy are often with the shoulder,” said Dr. William McCormick, Marshfield Clinic Health System orthopedic surgeon. “It allows us to see into small areas of the shoulder where we wouldn’t be able to in an open surgery.”
Surgeons can assess the structure and potential damage more completely with this increased access and magnified view. Often times, surgeons can diagnose and do repairs at the same time. “MRI’s are good, but not perfect. We can address problems that a MRI only hints at when we have that complete visualization,” McCormick said.
Open surgery still valuable
Traditional open surgery may still be a better option for some cases. In a joint replacement, the surgeon needs to have clean and clear access to the entire joint. This allows for perfect alignment.
You’ll see similar complication risks with arthroscopy and open surgery. The leading factor for recovery time depends on what type of surgery and the underlying problem. However, there is less scar tissue and muscle damage with an arthroscopic procedure.
Benefits of arthroscopy
While arthroscopy isn’t always the better option, it has its advantages.
- Less invasive: You’ll have a smaller incision that can be covered with a bandage as small as a Band-Aid.
- Better visualization: An illuminated and magnified camera allows surgeons to see more compared to the naked eye.
- Increased understanding: Surgeons are learning more about how the joint works and the effects of disease and injury because they have greater access to the joint.
“This is an exciting time with the work of my colleagues and researches who are bringing innovative, helpful solutions that will lead to new applications for serving patients,” McCormick said.
Talk with your surgeon about arthroscopy vs. open surgery when you’re considering a joint procedure.