Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is used to diagnose and treat various conditions of the body’s joints. It has many benefits over traditional open surgery, including less pain, faster healing time, and smaller scars. If you are considering arthroscopic surgery, it is important to understand how the procedure works, the benefits, as well as the risks in order to better determine if this is the right course of action for you.

How Arthroscopy Works

Arthroscopy involves inserting a tiny camera, called an arthroscope, through a small incision in the skin and into a damaged joint. The arthroscope is attached to a video monitor, which allows your surgeon to see inside of the joint with great detail. Viewing the damage through the camera and monitor allows your surgeon to diagnose and treat problems without having to make a large incision.

During the Procedure

The first step of the surgery will be to be put under some form of anesthesia. The kind of anesthesia chosen will depend on the procedure you are having done.

  • Local Anesthesia: This involves using numbing agents below the skin to block sensation in a limited area. With local anesthesia, you will still be awake during the arthroscopy but the most you’ll feel is pressure or a sensation of movement within the joint.
  • Regional Anesthesia: The most common form of regional anesthesia is delivered through a small needle in the back. This numbs the bottom of half of your body, but you will remain awake.
  • General Anesthesia: Depending on the length of the operation, it may be better for you to be unconscious during the procedure. General anesthesia is delivered through a vein and will be used throughout the entire procedure.

Depending on where you are having your surgery, your surgeon will position you for optimal accessibility. The limb receiving the operation will be placed in a positioning device and a tourniquet may be used to decrease blood loss and enhance visibility inside the joint.

Another technique that may be used to improve the view inside the joint involves filling the joint with sterile fluid to expand the area around the joint.

Once you are positioned and the anesthesia has been administered, a small incision will be made for the arthroscope. Additional small incisions at different points around the joint allow the surgeon to insert surgical tools to grasp, cut, and provide suction as needed for the joint repair.

Following the repair, the incisions will be closed with one or two stitches, or with narrow strips of adhesive tape.

Benefits of Arthroscopy

Arthroscopic surgery is minimally invasive resulting in many benefits, including:

  • Reduced pain
  • Faster healing time
  • Reduced scarring
  • Less risk of infection
  • Earlier return to normal activities

Risks of Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy is a very safe procedure and complications are uncommon, however, problems may include:

  • Tissue or nerve damage. The placement and movement of the instruments within the joint can damage the joint’s structures.
  • Infection. Any type of invasive surgery carries a risk of infection.
  • Blood clots. Rarely, procedures that last longer than an hour can increase the risk of blood clots developing in your legs or lungs.

Dr. Hicken has years of experience in arthroscopic surgery and is one of the only surgeons in Cache Valley who treats early hip issues with arthroscopic techniques. If you are experiencing joint pain or are interested in learning more about arthroscopy, give Dr. Hicken a call at 435-787-2000.