Arthroscopic Surgery, is it right for me?
Michael Dolecki, MD
Bitterroot Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
Arthroscopic surgery is considered one of the greatest advances in Orthopaedic
Surgery in the past 50 years. The ability to view (scope) the inside of
a joint (arthro) has been made possible by the technology advancements
in high resolution cameras and high definition video screens. In the past,
surgery required making an open incision which required splitting layers
of skin, adipose tissue and muscle to look inside a joint. This damage
to the surrounding tissue led to longer healing times mainly because of
scar formation, a normal process of tissue healing. If scar forms around
a joint, stiffness can result. Open procedures can also be more painful
and sometimes have a higher infection rate.
The development of arthroscopic techniques allowed for much smaller incisions
and the ability to "poke" through the tissues instead of splitting
them. This results in less damage to the surrounding tissue meaning less
scar formation and usually less stiffness. The major benefit becomes faster
healing and a speedier recovery. Commonly, return to normal activities
after arthroscopic surgery is cut in half, typically 2-4 weeks instead
of 6-8 weeks for open surgery.
The most common joint for arthroscopic surgery is the knee joint. In fact
the most common Orthopaedic surgical procedure being performed in the
United States on an annual basis is arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus
cartilage. By using well established portals or windows, a surgeon can
inspect the entire knee joint with as little as two small incisions. Aside
from the ability to view all areas of the knee joint, the development
of specially designed scissors, shavers, screws, anchors, etc. allow the
surgeon to repair the damage to tissues seen with the scope including
the meniscus, ligaments, synovium or joint lining, and articular cartilage.