Unfortunately, sometimes joint pain can become so severe that non-surgical management cannot help. After looking at your knee with examinations and various imaging (X-rays, MRI, etc.), you and your doctor may decide that surgical treatment is necessary and an arthroscopy may be considered as an option. This procedure is typically performed on the knee, shoulder, elbow, or wrist.
Arthroscopy is a technique of entering the joint, filling it up with more fluid and using a small camera and instruments to fix the damage in your knee. This is usually done through two or three small incisions (each less than a centimeter).
Depending on the type of damage, there may be a combination of fixing, shaving and cutting out of diseased tissue. Furthermore, the entire joint will be inspected for any other damaged that may not have been found before. A final wash of the joint removes all of the waste products, and often provides much relief, even in arthritis.
Before surgery, you will have a medical evaluation by your family doctor. You will also be seen by an anesthesiologist at the hospital, who will decide the best form of anesthesia for you. You will also have “crutch training,” with a therapist teaching you how to get around after surgery. Most patients need crutches for less than a week.
After surgery, you will spend 1-2 hours in the recovery room and will then be released to the care of a loved one, who can take you home. You will see the doctor within the next week, when you will most likely start physical therapy.
Most patients stop taking pain medicine within one to two weeks and are walking normally and pain free by 4 to 6 weeks.
Any surgery does pose some risk, and arthroscopy is no exception. The risks of this surgery include:
- Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots)
- Incomplete relief of pain
- Need for further surgery
- Less motion (stiffness)
- Heart attack
- Anesthetic risks
Preoperative sickness (such as diabetes, kidney disease or decreased blood flow) raises the chances of complications. Smoking is one of the biggest reasons for problems after surgery, and increases the possibility of bone and tissues not healing properly.