Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to visualize, diagnose and treat problems inside any joint. It is often referred to as “ keyhole surgery”
The word arthroscopy comes from two Greek words, “arthro” (joint) and “skopein” (to look). The term literally means, to look within the joint. To perform an arthroscopic examination, small (3-5 mm) incisions are made in the patients skin and fine diameter instruments, that contain a lens and fiberoptic lighting systems to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint are inserted. By attaching the arthroscope to a miniature television camera, the surgeon is able to visualise the interior of the joint on a monitor screen, and operate using specially designed small diameter instruments,through very small incisions rather than a large incision needed for “open” surgery.
Arthroscopy is useful for diagnosing rotator cuff tears and abrasions, biceps tendon problems, labral tears and instability of the joint, loose bodies and arthritis. The entire shoulder joint, as well as the subacromial bursa, can be examined and visualised in this way. A wide range of corrective surgery can be performed arthroscopically.
Two or three 5mm puncture wounds ( or “portholes”) are often all that are required. One allows for the arthroscope and the others for any arthroscopic instruments needed to correct the problem.
Arthroscopic surgery has the following advantages over open surgery:
- Since smaller incisions are made there is less dissection to surrounding structures
- Recovery is usually quicker after arthroscopic surgery.
- Post operative pain is usually less.
- The operations can often be done as a Day case, or requiring a shorter hospital admission.
- There are usually fewer complications of surgery.
If the arthroscopy is purely for diagnosis, you will be encouraged to use your shoulder as much as possible immediately afterwards. There should not normally be any restriction to using the arm and shoulder fully, as normal, the day after surgery (other than keeping the small wounds clean and dry for 10 days). You should be able to return to work within 2 days.
There is generally a single stitch which will require removing ( by your G.P’s practice nurse, or at the hospital) 10 to 12 days later. During this time you will have to take care to keep the wounds covered with a waterproof dressing when showering.After the stitches are removed you will be able to swim/ shower etc.