Arthroscopic Surgery in New Jersey

What Is Arthroscopy?

man playing tennisArthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure performed by an orthopedic surgeon to examine, diagnose and treat damage that has occurred to a joint in the body.

Small, keyhole-sized incisions are made into the skin, providing access to an instrument called an arthroscope. Equipped with a tiny camera, this device provides your surgeon with a clear image of the damaged joint, which is projected onto a screen in real time.

From there, they can determine the nature of the damage, such as whether it was caused by injury or degeneration, and what type of arthroscopy or other surgical intervention is required. With the use of minimally invasive tools, this procedure may be recommended for certain types of injuries, or when you are unable to achieve full recovery from nonsurgical therapeutic methods alone.

What Conditions Does Arthroscopy Treat?

Common conditions that can be treated with arthroscopic surgery include:

  • Damaged or torn cartilage
  • Torn ligaments
  • Loose bone fragments
  • Inflammation of joint linings
  • Joint scarring

How Is Arthroscopic Surgery Done?

In many cases, the surgeon can remove or repair the damage through arthroscopy with tiny tools used to cut, shave, grip, cauterize or anchor stitches into the bone.

A sterile fluid is injected into the area to provide the surgeon with a better view of the joint space.

Depending on the type and location of the joint damage, your arthroscopic surgery may be performed under one of the following anesthesia methods:

  • Regional anesthesia. Delivered through a needle between your spinal vertebrae, the lower half of your body will be numb, while you remain awake for the procedure.
  • General anesthesia. For more complex operations, general anesthesia, which is delivered intravenously, may be used, and you would be unconscious for the duration of your arthroscopic procedure.

If traditional open surgery is required, it may be done at the same time as your arthroscopy.

Incisions from arthroscopic surgery are small and can be closed with minimal stitching or adhesive medical tape.

Advantages of Arthroscopy over Traditional Open Surgery

Arthroscopy has a number of advantages, which makes it the preferred surgical method over traditional open surgery whenever possible. Several advantages include:

  • Faster healing. This is possible due to the smaller incisions made during the procedure. Many patients are able to remove their initial bandages and replace them with small sterilized strips a few days after their procedure.
  • Reduced pain and swelling. Less tissue is exposed to trauma from smaller incisions made during arthroscopy, which leads to less inflammation.
  • Lower risk of complications. Smaller incisions allow for reduced exposure time and risk for infection.
  • Outpatient setting. Many arthroscopy surgeries take place in a surgical center or the surgeon’s office, as opposed to hospitals. This makes arthroscopy a quicker and more cost-effective treatment option for many.
  • Earlier recovery. The less-invasive methods of arthroscopic surgery allow you to return to your normal functions earlier than with open surgical methods. Full recovery can often be achieved within weeks, even among athletes.

By contrast, the larger wounds made from traditional open surgeries are associated with greater levels of pain, swelling, risk of infection and slower recovery times that often require a few months of recovery, even with physical therapy.

What Are the Different Types of Arthroscopic Surgeries?

Arthroscopy can be done on a number of joints in the body, including the shoulder, elbow, hip, wrist, knee and ankle. Generally done on an outpatient basis, the procedures can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.

Shoulder Arthroscopy

Some conditions and injuries that can be treated with shoulder arthroscopy include:

  • Dislocated shoulder. This injury occurs when the humerus, known as the upper arm bone, comes out of place with the shoulder blade socket. Shoulder arthroscopy may be an option for shoulder instability when attempts to keep the bone in place, braces/slings or rehabilitation are not successful.
  • Impingement syndrome. Also known as “swimmer’s shoulder,” this occurs when a tendon rubs against the outermost point of a shoulder blade due to inflammation or repetitive motion. When non-surgical methods do not correct the issue, shoulder arthroscopy or shoulder surgery may provide relief.
  • Rotator cuff tears. A frequent sports injury, this condition involves a tear in the tissues that connect the shoulder tendons to the joint. It may be corrected by shoulder arthroscopy or more invasive shoulder surgery, if necessary.
  • Shoulder joint labral tears. An injury to the ring of cartilage surrounding the shoulder joint socket can result in a glenoid labrum tear of the outermost point of the shoulder blade or a tear of the superior labrum of the upper part of the socket. Often caused by an auto accident, a fall onto an outstretched arm, sports activity or wear and tear from age, this condition can be corrected with shoulder arthroscopy.

Elbow Arthroscopy

Some conditions and injuries that can be treated with elbow arthroscopy include:

  • Tennis elbow. This condition involving inflammation of the tissue connecting the forearm muscle to the elbow can be addressed with elbow arthroscopy.
  • Loose bone fragments or cartilage in the joint. Loose debris from prior injuries can be removed through elbow arthroscopy, which helps to alleviate associated pain or discomfort.
  • Scar tissue removal. Elbow arthroscopy can remove scar tissue and the associated discomfort from previous injuries.

Hip Arthroscopy

Some conditions and injuries that can be treated with hip arthroscopy include:

  • Hip impingement. Hip arthroscopy can correct this sometimes-painful issue that occurs when the pelvis socket is too shallow to support the femoral head, resulting in misalignment.
  • Hip labrum tears. This condition involving an injury to the tissue surrounding the ball and socket joints in the hip can be addressed through hip arthroscopy.
  • Synovitis of the hip. This condition causes inflammation of the tissues that surround the joint. This inflamed tissue can be removed during the hip arthroscopy procedure.

Wrist Arthroscopy

Some conditions and injuries that can be treated with wrist arthroscopy include:

  • Carpal tunnel. Wrist arthroscopy can correct this condition involving pressure on the median nerve that is associated with pain and numbing in the wrist and forearm.
  • Wrist fractures. Wrist arthroscopy is a helpful tool for identifying, grading and assessing treatment for wrist fractures.
  • Ligament tears. Wrist sprains and ligament tears can often be treated with arthroscopy of the wrist.
  • Ganglion cysts. These non-cancerous, fluid-filled lumps in the hand or wrist can be removed with wrist arthroscopy.

Knee Arthroscopy

Some conditions and injuries that can be treated with arthroscopic knee surgery include:

  • Torn meniscus. Knee arthroscopy is a helpful tool for identifying, grading and providing treatment for this vital cartilage structure in the knee.
  • Torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Reconstruction of this crucial knee ligament is made possible through knee arthroscopy.
  • Synovitis of the knee. The inflamed tissue surrounding the knee can be removed during the knee arthroscopy procedure, providing relief.
  • Osteocondral (OCD) lesions. Isolated cartilage defects can be repaired with various reconstructive techniques.

Ankle Arthroscopy

Some conditions and injuries that can be treated with arthroscopic ankle surgery include:

  • Ligament tears. Repairing ligament tears that connect from bone to bone can often be repaired through ankle arthroscopy.
  • Ankle impingement. Ankle arthroscopy can remove this swollen tissue and bony spurs which makes movement difficult.
  • Cartilage injuries. Ankle arthroscopy is a helpful tool for diagnosing and repairing damage to cartilage and bone.

Recovery from Arthroscopy

Your aftercare following shoulder arthroscopy, hip arthroscopy, elbow arthroscopy, wrist arthroscopy, knee arthroscopy, and ankle arthroscopy will likely include:

  • R.I.C.E. To minimize pain and swelling, follow this protocol to the affected joint:
    • Rest
    • Ice
    • Compression
    • Elevation
  • Medical devices. Your doctor may prescribe a protective device such as a sling or crutch to help protect the area and enable proper healing.
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation. At-home exercises or physical therapy may be prescribed to help strengthen your muscles and regain function and range of motion of your joint.
  • Medication. Medication may be prescribed to help ease pain and inflammation following your arthroscopy.

In many cases, you should be able to return to light activities and desk work within a few days, with more strenuous physical activities within a few weeks to months depending on your diagnosis.

Be sure to contact your doctor if you develop a fever, swelling, numbness, fluid leakage from the wound or excessive pain following your arthroscopy.

The RWJBarnabas Health Difference

At RWJBarnabas Health, we help our patients achieve a better quality of life by getting them back to everyday activities with ease.

As the largest health network in New Jersey, RWJBarnabas Health is equipped with a leading-edge orthopedics department led by highly skilled medical professionals who will guide you through your arthroscopic surgery and postsurgical care with expertise and compassion.

Our team includes:

  • Orthopedic surgeons
  • Sports medicine physicians
  • Physician assistants
  • Registered nurses
  • Physical therapists

With access to the latest technologies in arthroscopic treatments we can administer procedures that promote enhanced healing, aid in pain management and encourage better patient outcomes for you and your family.

Do you have questions about arthroscopy? RWJBarnabas Health can help.


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