For high school and college athletes, there are few things worse than a season-ending injury. If sitting on the sidelines wasn’t already painful in its own sense, a severe injury and the conditions associated with it may continue long after the season has ended and may even lead to problems as an adult.
Orthopedic injuries are an unfortunate reality for the millions of individuals who participate in professional sports or even just recreational activities. While surgery is not necessary for the vast majority of injuries, a diagnosis by a board certified sports medicine physician can determine if and what type of surgery may benefit you in the present as well as prevent more serious problems down the road. Dr. Steve Hamilton is a fellowship trained sports medicine physician at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine who can determine if your injury requires surgery. In most instances, Dr. Hamilton will recommend arthroscopic surgery over an open procedure.
Arthroscopy, which is also called “arthroscopic surgery,” is one option that you can discuss with your sports medicine physician. This minimally invasive surgical procedure is often used to examine and treat a patient’s shoulder, hip, wrist, or ankle; however, it can be performed on most joints.
Arthroscopic surgery can treat but is not limited to:
- Damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
- Damaged medial collateral ligament (MCL)
- Damaged ulnar collateral ligament (UCL)
- Torn or damaged meniscus
- Irritated, enlarged, or inflamed knee (Plica syndrome)
- New cartilage stimulation (Microfracture)
- Cartilage transfer (Autologous chondrocyte implantation)
- Loose cartilage
- Damaged or deteriorating cartilage
- Torn rotator cuff or labrum
- Bone fractures
- Bone spurs
- Baker’s cysts
- Ganglion cysts
Arthroscopy is considered a minimally invasive procedure because it allows the surgeon to both view and treat a joint without fully opening it up. This means less trauma to the joint and less scarring, and often provides shorter recovery times and lower risks of complications compared to open surgeries.
How Arthroscopy is Performed
If arthroscopy is the best method of treatment for you, you will be given general anesthesia prior to the procedure. Your orthopedic surgeon or anesthesiologist will talk to you about which option is best for you.
The surgery center at Beacon Orthopaedics provides viewing rooms behind glass for family members to view your procedure. The rooms are staffed with surgical nurses who are able to answer any questions as they walk the family through the procedure.
Once the patient has been properly draped and the skin around the joint has been thoroughly cleaned, the orthopedic surgeon making a small incision. These incisions are significantly smaller than the ones made during open joint surgery. At this time, the surgeon will also fill the joint with irrigation fluid which will distend the joint and rinse away any cloudy fluid obstructing their view.
Next, the surgeon inserts an arthroscope, which has a diameter that is approximately the same size as a pencil’s, into the opening. This instrument contains lighting and a camera, transmitting video of the interior structures to video monitors so the surgery team can see inside the joint. It also contains a small lens and a light which allows the surgeon to magnify and illuminate difficult areas.
In some instances, the surgeon may also need to remove a small amount of tissue in order to view or access the joint. In order to do this, they use a specialized shaver to resect, or remove, the smallest amount of tissue that’s required.
This allows the surgeon to a full view of the joint for a procedure or debridement (removal of damaged tissue and debris) with a very minimum incision.
In general, the amount of time it takes to perform arthroscopic surgery is significantly less than that of traditional joint surgery; however, this will depend on any unexpected findings and what type of treatment is performed.
Once your joint has been successfully restored or repaired, Dr. Hamilton will close your incision and cover it with a soft bandage. Most patients are safe to remove the bandage the following morning.
The Benefits of Arthroscopy
Lower Risk of Complications
The smaller incisions made during an arthroscopic procedure mean that there is a lower chance of an infection. Moreover, the procedure is simpler and more straightforward than a traditional approach. This is primarily due to the fact that no muscles or tendons need to be cut.
Faster Recovery Time
Your incisions will heal within a day or two of your operation and you will likely be able to return to your daily activities shortly afterward. Arthroscopy is almost always performed as an outpatient procedure. This means you can go home the same day as your operation. Dr. Hamilton may prescribe physical therapy to help expedite your recovery. If you are an athlete, a more rigorous rehabilitation program may be designed to help you return to play. Keep in mind, however, that the actual length of time that your body will need in order to heal fully depends on the specific condition that caused your problems as well as your own unique health factors.
Less Post-Operative Pain
Alongside a faster recovery, arthroscopic surgery often results in less pain during the first few days following the procedure. While you should still expect some pain and swelling, these symptoms are noticeably easier to manage, especially compared to the post-operative pain that is commonly experienced after open surgery. This is primarily due to the fact that arthroscopic procedures are less invasive and less traumatic than open surgeries.
Candidates for Arthroscopic Surgery
Candidates for arthroscopic surgery share many qualities with candidates of other minimally invasive procedures, such as platelet rich plasma treatments. These candidates tend to be younger, more active, and generally healthy. These qualities are ideal for a few reasons: First, the surgeon must be able to navigate the arthroscope and other necessary tools through the interior structures of the patient’s body. Second, physical therapy is a common part of the patient’s rehabilitation. A higher level of movement before surgery usually results in a faster recovery.
Talk to Dr. Hamilton about Your Arthroscopic Options
While all forms of surgery carry a level of risk, an arthroscopic procedure conducted by an experienced, fellowship trained surgeon can be a highly effective way of treating joint problems.
Dr. Steve Hamilton is not only one of the most recognized arthroscopic surgeons in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area, but he also joined Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine as the first sports medicine physician in the area with fellowship training in hip arthroscopy. He can discuss with you whether minimally invasive joint surgery is the best option and provide specific expertise regarding shoulder, hip, knee and ankle injuries.