What is arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy is a technique whereby we use a small camera for examining the inside of a joint. This allows detailed assessment of the joint with only a very small wound (typically 1 cm ), avoiding painful open surgery and risk of infection and further trauma to the patient. As a result, pain after the operation is minimised and recovery can be rapid. Sometimes we use arthroscopy to gain more information to help make a diagnosis, while sometimes it helps us decide on treatment options.
When do we use arthroscopy?
In theory, arthroscopy can be performed on any joint, but we only use this technique for shoulder and elbow investigations and treatments. Most common conditions are cartilage problems in both joints called osteochondrosis or problems with the inside portion of the elbow joint called medial coronoid process ( part of elbow dysplasia). We also use arthroscopy for evaluation of the biceps tendon which often gets inflamed and this can easily be visualised this way. We are currently training to use this technique also in the knee and ankle joint.
What is involved in arthroscopy?
When using arthroscopy the animal always has to be fully anaesthetised. The hair over the affected joint is clipped off and the skin cleaned, in a similar way to any other surgical procedure. Small incisions, are then made into the joint to allow the introduction of fluid and the arthroscopic camera and instruments. When the procedure is finished we normally use skin staples to close the small wounds and put a light dressing onto the wound for 1-3 days.
Aftercare patients are normally discharged within 24 hours, sometimes quicker depending on the reason for arthroscopy and how much irritation or investigations took place. There might be some swelling over the wounds which reduced quickly especially using cold compresses and anti-inflammatory drugs for a few days.Patients are restricted to lead exercise for a period of time and rechecks tend to be after 10 days and then on a case by case basis. We have been using physiotherapy and acupuncture as well as laser therapy (provided by our own in house and fully qualified and certified physiotherapist) in addition to treatment to speed up the recovery process.
Risks and complications
Risks (infections and wound complications) are very small due to the small incisions and the large amount of water used during the procedures.