Arthroscopy (also called arthroscopic surgery) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure on a joint in which an examination and sometimes treatment of damage is performed using an arthroscope, an endoscope that is inserted into the joint through a small incision. Arthroscopic procedures can be performed to evaluate or treat many orthopaedic conditions including torn cartilage (known by health professionals as "meniscus"), torn surface (articular) cartilage, ACL reconstruction, and trimming damaged cartilage.
The advantage over traditional open surgery is that the joint does not have to be opened up fully. For knee arthroscopy only two small incisions are made, one for the arthroscope and one for the surgical instruments to be used in the knee cavity. This reduces recovery time and may increase the rate of 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 (extravasates) into the surrounding soft tissue, causing edema.
The surgical instruments 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.
It is technically possible to do an arthroscopic examination of almost every joint, but is most commonly used for the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, ankle, foot, 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 arthroscope) 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.
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, or arthroscopic lavage alone without debridement (a procedure only imitating the surgical debridement, where superficial incisions to the skin were made to give the appearance that the debridement procedure had been performed). 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 (thus the "double blind" notation). 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 benefit for these surgeries in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee, many payors are reluctant to reimburse surgeons and hospitals for what can be considered a procedure which seems to create the risks of surgery with questionable or no demonstrable benefit. However this is still a widely adopted treatment for a range of conditions including Labral tears, Femoroacetabular impingement, Osteochondritis dissecans. 
A 2008 study confirmed that there was no long-term benefit for chronic pain, above medication and physical therapy.
One of the primary reasons for performing arthroscopies is to repair or trim a painful and torn or damaged meniscus. The surgery is known as an arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (APM). Arthroscopic surgery, however, does not appear to result in benefits in adults with mild osteoarthritis who have a meniscal tear.
A torn meniscus is in a majority of cases non-symptomatic.
After knee arthroscopy there will be swelling around the knee, which can take anywhere from 7–15 days to completely settle. It is important to wait until there is no swelling before doing any serious exercise or extensive walking, because the knee will not be fully stable; extensive exercise may cause pain and in some cases cause the knee to swell more. The spread of the swell might cause serious problems.
Hip arthroscopy was initially used for the diagnosis of unexplained hip pain, but is now widely used in the treatment of conditions both in and outside the hip joint. The most common indication currently is for the treatment of femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and its associated pathologies. Hip conditions that may be treated arthroscopically also includes labral tears, loose / foreign body removal, hip washout (for infection) or biopsy, chondral (cartilage) lesions, osteochondritis dissecans, ligamentum teres injuries (and reconstruction), Iliopsoas tendinopathy (or ‘snapping psoas’), trochanteric pain syndrome, snapping iliotibial band, osteoarthritis (controversial), sciatic nerve compression (piriformis syndrome), ischiofemoral impingement and direct assessment of hip replacement.
Arthroscopy is commonly used for treatment of diseases of the shoulder including subacromial impingement, acromioclavicular osteoarthritis, rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis), chronic tendonitis, removal of loose bodies and partial tears of the long biceps tendon, SLAP lesions and shoulder instability. The most common indications include subacromial decompression, bankarts lesion repair and rotator cuff repair. All these procedures were done by opening the joint through big incisions before the advent of arthroscopy. Arthroscopic shoulder surgeries have gained momentum in the past decade. "Keyhole surgery" of the shoulder as it is popularly known has reduced inpatient time and rehabilitation requirements and is often a daycare procedure.
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 wrist osteoarthritis.
Many invasive spine procedures involve the removal of bone, muscle, and ligaments to access and treat problematic areas. In some cases, thoracic (mid-spine) conditions requires a surgeon to access the problem area through the rib cage, dramatically lengthening recovery time.
Arthroscopic (also endoscopic spinal procedures) allow access to and treatment of spinal conditions with minimal damage to surrounding tissues. Recovery times are greatly reduced due to the relatively small size of incision(s), and many patients are treated as outpatients. Recovery rates and times vary according to condition severity and the patient's overall health.
Arthroscopic procedures treat
Arthroscopy of the temporomandibular joint is sometimes used as either a diagnostic procedure for symptoms and signs related to these joints, or as a therapeutic measure in conditions like temporomandibular joint dysfunction. TMJ arthroscopy can be a purely diagnostic procedure, or it can have its own beneficial effects which may result from washing out of the joint during the procedure, thought to remove debris and inflammatory mediators, and may enable a displaced disc to return to its correct position. Arthroscopy is also used to visualize the inside of the joint during certain surgical procedures involving the articular disc or the articular surfaces, similar to laparoscopy. Examples include release of adhesions (e.g., by blunt dissection or with a laser) or release of the disc. Biopsies or disc reduction can also be carried out during arthroscopy. It is carried out under general anesthetic.
Professor Kenji Takagi in Tokyo has traditionally been credited with performing the first arthroscopic examination of a knee joint, in 1919. He used a 7.3 mm cystoscope for his first arthroscopies. Recently it has been discovered that the Danish physician Severin Nordentoft reported on arthroscopies of the knee joint in 1912 at the Proceedings of the 4lst Congress of the German Society of Surgeons at Berlin. He called the procedure (in Latin) arthroscopia genu, and used sterile saline or boric acid solution as his optic media, and entering the joint by a portal on the outer border of the patella. It is not clear if these examinations were of deceased or of living patients.
Pioneering work began as early as the 1920s with the work of Eugen Bircher. He published several papers in the 1920s about his use of arthroscopy of the knee for diagnostic purposes. After diagnosing torn tissue, he used open surgery to remove or repair the damaged tissue. Initially, he used an electric Jacobaeus thoracolaparoscope for his diagnostic procedures, which produced a dim view of the joint. Later, he developed a double-contrast approach to improve visibility. He gave up endoscopy in 1930, and his work was largely neglected for several decades.
While he 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 designed by them, and they worked together to produce the first high-quality color intraarticular photography. The field benefited significantly from technological advances, particularly advances in flexible fiber optics during the 1970s and 1980s.
Arthroscopy surgical skills have been traditionally taught in cadaver labs, although the progression to in vivo operations varies from country to country. The International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (ISAKOS) holds a list of approved courses for gaining surgical skills.
A new teaching technique uses medical simulation as an alternative to cadaver training. High fidelity simulators range from those that use real surgical tools and passive haptics, such as VirtaMed's ArthroS™, to those that rely on active haptic feedback, such as the Arthro Mentor™ from Simbionix. When studied, passive haptics have shown "high scores in terms of realism" and the ability to differentiate between "varying levels of arthroscopic experience". Reference material, such as the application developed by Touch Surgery, also contains visualization of minimally invasive techniques.
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- Arthroscopy Association of North America
- Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery
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