Athroscopy is a surgical procedure Dr. Biehl uses to visualize, diagnose and treat problems inside a joint. The word arthroscopy comes from two Greek words, "arthro" (joint) and "skopein" (to look). The term literally means "to look within the joint." In an arthroscopic examination, Dr. Biehl makes a small incision in the patient's skin and then inserts pencil-sized instruments that contain a small lens and lighting system to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint. Light is transmitted through fiber optics to the end of the arthroscope that is inserted into the joint. By attaching the arthroscope to a miniature television camera,Dr. Biehl is able to see the interior of the joint through this very small incision rather than a large incision needed for surgery.
Some of the most frequent conditions found by Dr. Biehl during arthroscopic examinations of joints are:
meniscal (cartilage) tears, chondromalacia (wearing or injury of cartilage cushion), inflammation, synovitis - inflamed lining (synovium), acute and chronic injuries, rotator cuff tendon tears, impingement syndrome, and recurrent dislocations, loose bodies.
Although the inside of nearly all joints can be viewed with an arthroscope, five joints are most frequently examined with this instrument. These include the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, and wrist.
Arthroscopy is most commonly done for knee pain. Years ago joint surgery had to be done with large incisions. Arthroscopic surgery, typically is much easier in terms of recovery than "open" surgery. However,it still requires the use of anesthetics and the special equipment in a hospital operating room or outpatient surgical suite. You will be given a general, spinal or a local anesthetic, depending on the joint or suspected problem. After arthroscopic surgery, the small incisions are covered with a dressing. The small puncture wounds take several days to heal. The operative dressing can usually be removed the morning after surgery and adhesive strips can be applied to cover the small healing incisions. Many patients need pain medications. Although the puncture wounds are small and pain in the joint that underwent arthroscopy is minimal, it takes several weeks for the joint to maximally recover. A specific activity and rehabilitation program may be suggested to speed your recover and protect future joint function.It is not unusual for patients to go back to work or school or resume daily activities within a few days. Athletes and others who are in good physical condition may in some cases return to athletic activities within a few weeks. However, people who have arthroscopy can have many different diagnoses and preexisting conditions, so each patient's arthroscopic surgery is unique to that person. Recovery time will reflect that individuality.
What are the possible complications?
Although uncommon, complications do occur occasionally during or following arthroscopy. Infection, phlebitis (blood clots of a vein), excessive swelling or bleeding, damage to blood vessels or nerves, and instrument breakage are the most common complications, but occur in far less than 1 percent of all arthroscopic procedures.
Dr. Biehl is a medical doctor with extensive training in the diagnosis and nonsurgical and surgical treatment of the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. He has had vast experience with arthroscopic proceedures and has been doing them for over 15 years.