Joints, bones, and soft tissues around shoulders, hips, wrists, ankles, and knees are susceptible to injury from overuse, age-related wear-and-tear, and chronic conditions like arthritis. If non-surgical remedies to ease any pain felt around these joints fails to provide relief, surgery may become an option. And an increasing number of surgeries are able to be safely and effectively performed with minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques.
Before surgery can be performed on a shoulder, hip, wrist, ankle, or knee, the surgeon must know exactly what the problem is and where the damaged area is located. If it’s not clear what’s causing the pain, a diagnostic arthroscopy may be performed. During the procedure, a small incision is made to insert a special camera. The surgeon will view the insert of the joint on a monitor. Once the problem has been clearly identified, small instruments will be inserted into other small incisions to perform the necessary corrections. Oftentimes, such procedures involve:
- Repairing or smoothing torn cartilage
- Reattaching ligaments or tendons
- Removing pieces of bone and tissue from the joint area
- Trimming bone spurs
- Removing inflamed tissues
Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery
Shoulder surgery often involves some type of repair to the muscle that holds the arm in the shoulder joint (rotator cuff). Arthroscopic shoulder surgery may also be performed to remove damaged or inflamed tissue above the shoulder joint (impingement syndrome). Minimally invasive procedures may also be used to correct instability from damage to cartilage around the shoulder joint (labrum) and other ligaments that attach to this area.
Arthroscopic Ankle Surgery
Minimally invasive ankle arthroscopy may be performed if pain in this joint is being triggered by torn cartilage or a bone chip, two common sources of ankle pain. Ankle surgery usually involves one of the three bones of the ankle: the talus that fits in the socket by the tibia (shinbone), the small bone of the lower leg (fibula), or the heal bone (thecalcaneus). Surgery may also be necessary to correct damage to the anterior talofibular, calcaneofibular, or posterior talofibular ligament, the three thick tissues that support the ankle.
Arthroscopic Surgery on Hips
Pain in the ball-and-socket hip joint is sometimes related to the articular cartilage that covers it. Arthroscopic hip surgery may be recommended to fix damage to strong fibrocartilage (labrum) that supports the hip joint or a tendon that repeatedly rubs against the outside of the joint (snapping hip syndrome). Bone overgrowth that’s damaging soft tissues in the hip may also need to be removed (femoroacetabular impingement).
Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
Arthroscopic knee surgery to correct damage to cartilage surfaces has become fairly common and is considered highly reliable. Arthroscopic procedures may be performed to ease persistent knee pain related to a torn meniscus or a detached anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Knee sepsis is a knee infection that may require surgery. Loose fragments of bone or cartilage may also need to be removed from the affected knee.
Arthroscopic Surgery on Wrists
Inflamed areas of tissue and cartilage damage can contribute to chronic wrist pain. Arthroscopic surgery may be necessary to repair this damage and remove swollen or damaged tissue to ease pressure on nerves in the wrist. Surgery is sometimes recommended to relieve wrist pain linked to ganglion cysts between wrist bones or damage to cartilage structure known as the triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) on the small finger side of the wrist. A carpal tunnel release may be performed arthroscopically to cut the ligament roof and provide more room for nerves.
Who is a Candidate for Arthroscopic Surgery?
Preferred candidates for arthroscopic surgery are patients without significant health issues that may impede healing or increase the risk of surgical complications. Other treatments should be attempted first before any type of surgery is considered. A clear source of pain must also be identified.
Arthroscopic surgery performed on parts of the shoulder, hip, wrist, ankle, or knee often results in a faster recovery. It’s an especially appealing option if you’re hoping to quickly return to favorite activities that involve regular joint movements. Complete recovery from any type of surgery, even when performed with less invasive techniques, will depend on several factors, including the extent of the issue that was causing the pain and a patient’s overall health and response to physical therapy.