The advantage of arthroscopy over traditional open surgery is that the joint does not have to be opened up fully. Instead, only two small incisions are made - one for the arthroscope and one for the surgical instruments. This reduces recovery time and may increase the rate of surgical success due to less trauma to the connective tissue. It is especially useful for professional athletes, who frequently injure knee joints and require fast healing time. There is also less scarring, because of the smaller incisions. Irrigation fluid is used to distend the joint and make a surgical space. Sometimes this fluid leaks into the surrounding soft tissue causing extravasation and edema
The surgical instruments used are smaller than traditional instruments. Surgeons view the joint area on a video monitor, and can diagnose and repair torn joint tissue, such as ligaments and menisci or cartilage
Arthroscopy is used for joints of the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, ankle, and hip.
Knee arthroscopy has in many cases replaced the classic arthrotomy that was performed in the past. Today knee arthroscopy is commonly performed for treating meniscus injury, reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament and for cartilage microfracturing. Arthroscopy can also be performed just for diagnosing and checking of the knee; however, the latter use has been mainly replaced by magnetic resonance imaging.
During an average knee arthroscopy, a small fiberoptic camera (the endoscope) is inserted into the joint through a small incision, about 4 mm (1/8 inch) long. A special fluid is used to visualize the joint parts. More incisions might be performed in order to check other parts of the knee. Then other miniature instruments are used and the surgery is performed.
Recovery after a knee arthroscopy is significantly faster as compared to arthrotomy. Most patients can return home and walk using crutches the same or the next day after the surgery. Recovery time depends on the reason that surgery was needed and the patient's physical condition. Usually a patient can fully load his leg already within a couple of days and after a few weeks the joint function can fully recover. It is not uncommon for athletes who have an above average physical condition to return to normal athletic activities within a few weeks.
Arthroscopic surgeries of the knee are done for many reasons, but the usefulness of surgery for treating osteoarthritis is doubtful. A double-blind placebo-controlled study on arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002. In this three-group study, 180 military veterans with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomly assigned to receive arthroscopic débridement with lavage, just arthroscopic lavage, or a sham surgery, which made superficial incisions to the skin while pretending to do the surgery. For two years after the surgeries, patients reported their pain levels and were evaluated for joint motion. Neither the patients nor the independent evaluators knew which patients had received which surgery. The study reported, "At no point did either of the intervention groups report less pain or better function than the placebo group." Because there is no confirmed usefulness for these surgeries, many agencies are reconsidering paying for a surgery which seems to create risks with no benefit. A 2008 study confirmed that there was no long-term benefit for chronic pain, above medication and physical therapy.
Arthroscopic (also endoscopic) spinal procedures allow a surgeon to access and treat a variety of spinal conditions with minimal damage to surrounding tissues. Recovery times are greatly reduced due to the relatively small size of incision(s) required, and many patients are treated on an outpatient basis. Recovery rates and times vary according to condition severity and the patient's overall health.
Arthroscopic procedures treat
Arthroscopy of the wrist is used to investigate and treat symptoms of repetitive strain injury, fractures of the wrist and torn or damaged ligaments. It can also be used to ascertain joint damage caused by arthritis.
While Bircher is often considered the inventor of arthroscopy of the knee, the Japanese surgeon Masaki Watanabe, MD receives primary credit for using arthroscopy for interventional surgery. Watanabe was inspired by the work and teaching of Dr Richard O'Connor. Later, Dr. Heshmat Shahriaree began experimenting with ways to excise fragments of menisci.
The first operating arthroscope was jointly designed by these men, and they worked together to produce the first high-quality color intraarticular photography The field benefitted significantly from technological advances, particularly advances in flexible fiber optics during the 1970s and 1980s.