Assessing the Safety of Arthroscopy

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Arthroscopy is a safe, minimally invasive surgical procedure that is used to visualize, diagnose and/or treat problems in the joints. Such as, the shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles. This procedure is most commonly done on the knee joint.

The technique consists of a light source, a lens system and a fiber optic scope called an arthroscope with about the diameter of a pen. Two to three small skin incisions are made at the joint. One for the scope, one for an irrigation port and one to pass small fiber optic instruments if needed. A small video camera is attached to the scope and the images of the joint are displayed on a TV screen.

Common types of arthroscopies done on the knees are:

Menisectomy which is the removal of a torn knee cartilage.

Removal of scar tissue from the kneecap.

Anterior Cruiciate Ligament (ACL) repair. ACL tear is a very common injury sustained by professional athletes as in Tiger Wood's stress fracture and ACL injury.

How safe is an Arthroscopy?

In any procedure there are likely to be risks which your care provider will explain to you. You should make sure you understand the risks, ask questions about them and take them seriously. In addition follow your care giver instructions on how to reduce risks, e.g. discontinuing certain medications prior to surgery like blood thinners, etc.

An arthroscopy procedure is a low risk procedure with only a 1% -2% of the risk factors occurring in all arthroscopic procedures done. The following are the complications associated with an arthroscopy procedure.

Swelling of the joint.

Infection of the wound.

Bleeding within the joint.

Damage to tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint.

Blood clots (thrombus) in the leg, this is very rare.

Problems related to anesthesia could also occur.

The Benefits of an Arthroscopic Procedure:

There are many advantages to the arthroscopic approach in visualizing, diagnosing and treating joint problems.

An arthroscopy is an accurate tool for diagnosis of a joint injury and if necessay the treatment can be done at the time of the diagnosis.

This approach is less invasive resulting in a lower risk of infection than in an open procedure.

The incision is small; resulting in less pain and swelling; faster recovery and a faster return to normal activities.

An arthroscopic procedure takes about 20 minutes to an hour.

It is a procedure that may be done in a same day surgery, clinic or hospital setting with the patient returning home for recovery the same day.

With the help of advanced fiber optic technology, arthroscopic procedures have proved to be safe, minimally invasive, quick, efficient and cost effective in treating patients with joint problems.

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