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Also called arthroscopic or keyhole surgery) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure on a joint in which an examination and sometimes treatment of damage is performed using an arthroscope, an endoscope that is inserted into the joint through a small incision.
The six most commonly performed arthroscopic surgeries are:
- Knee arthroscopy.
- Shoulder arthroscopy.
- Hip arthroscopy.
- Ankle arthroscopy.
- Elbow arthroscopy.
- Wrist arthroscopy.
How Long Does arthroscopic surgery take? The actual surgery time is usually about 30 minutes. If extensive work is needed, the procedure may last up to 45 minutes. Most people "go to sleep completely" during surgery with a general anesthetic. Some have surgery with a spinal anesthetic. Your doctor may recommend it if you have inflammation in a joint, have injured a joint, or have damaged a joint over time. You can have arthroscopy on any joint. Most often, it’s done on the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, hip, or wrist. What Happens During the Procedure? Your doctor will perform arthroscopic surgery in a hospital or outpatient operating room. That means you can go home the same day. The type of anesthesia you’ll receive depends on the joint and what your surgeon suspects is the problem. It may be general anesthesia (you’ll be asleep during surgery), or your doctor will give it to you through your spine. They might also numb the area they are doing the surgery on. Your doctor will insert special pencil-thin instruments through a small cut (incision) the size of a buttonhole. They’ll use a tool called an arthroscope that has a camera lens and a light. It allows them to see inside the joint. The camera projects an image of the joint onto a screen. The surgeon will fill the joint with sterile fluid to widen it so it’s easier to see. They’ll look inside the joint, diagnose the problem, and decide what type of surgery you need, if any. If you do need surgery, your surgeon will insert special tools through other small incisions called portals. They’ll use them to cut, shave, grasp, and anchor stitches into bone. If your surgeon decides you need traditional, “open” surgery to fix the problem, they may do it at the same time as your arthroscopic surgery. Afterward, they’ll remove the arthroscope and any attachments. They’ll close the wound with special tape or stitches.
What about Recovery? You may have some pain in the joint after surgery. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication. They might also prescribe aspirin or other medication to prevent blood clots. You may need crutches, a splint, or a sling for support as you recover. Arthroscopic surgery usually results in less joint pain and stiffness than open surgery. Recovery also generally takes less time. You’ll have small puncture wounds where the arthroscopic tools went into your body. The day after surgery, you may be able to remove the surgical bandages and replace them with small strips to cover the incisions. Your doctor will remove non-dissolvable stitches after a week or 2. While your wounds heal, you’ll have to keep the site as dry as possible. This means covering them with a plastic bag when you shower. Your doctor will tell you what activities to avoid when you go home. You can often go back to work or school within a few days of surgery. Full joint recovery typically takes several weeks. It may take several months to be back to normal. Rehabilitation or specific exercises can help speed your recovery. Your doctor will tell you which ones are safe to do.
When to Call the Doctor? Complications are rare. They happen in fewer than one in 100 cases. If you do have complications, they can include infection, blood clots, damage to the blood vessels or nerves, and excessive bleeding or swelling. Instruments can also break during surgery.Your doctor will insert special pencil-thin instruments through a small cut (incision) the size of a buttonhole. They’ll use a tool called an arthroscope that has a camera lens and a light. It allows them to see inside the joint. The camera projects an image of the joint onto a screen. The surgeon will fill the joint with sterile fluid to widen it so it’s easier to see. Call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms:
- Pain that gets worse
- Severe swelling
- Numbness or tingling
- Discolored or smelly fluid seeping from wound
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