What Is Arthroscopic Surgery?

What does it mean to get 'scoped?'

Ice on the knee
knee. undefined

Arthroscopy is a surgical technique that allows a surgeon to diagnose and treat joint disorders by using a small camera to look inside the joint. The arthroscope contains a small camera that provides a clear view of the interior of the joint while the surgeon inserts surgical instruments through other small incisions to repair damaged tissues.

Typically, arthroscopy is used for knee pain and injuries such as ACL or PCL tears and shoulder joint injuries such as rotator cuff problems.

Occasionally, it will be used in the ankle, hip or elbow. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure and is often the best way to deal with many joint problems. Compared to open surgery, arthroscopy generally results in much shorter recovery time, less pain, and reduced expenses.

If you ever undergo an arthroscopic procedure, chances are it will be done on an outpatient basis, and you will be able to return home the same day. The anesthesia used for arthroscopy will depend upon the joint and the type of procedure used. It may be anything from general anesthesia (putting you to sleep) to a local anesthetic. You may even be able to watch the procedure on the television screen as it occurs, or get a videotape of the procedure. Arthroscopic incisions are so small that they usually require no more than one stitch, if any, and you may require little or no pain medication after arthroscopy.

You will most likely be given a rehabilitative exercise program to begin immediately after the procedure.

Regular exercise to restore your knee mobility and strength is essential. Generally, this program can be done at home. Your orthopaedic surgeon may refer you to physical therapy to get started. You will likely exercise approximately 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a day. You also may be advised to engage in a walking program.

Some exercises commonly recommended after arthroscopy include ACL rehab, and other exercises including the following specifically recommended for athletes who have undergone arthroscopic surgery on their knees:

  • Initial Exercises - These exercises can be begone as soon as the swelling around the knee joint decreases. These exercises are specifically used to improve range of motion in the knee.
    • Hamstring Contraction
    • Quadriceps Contraction
    • Straight Leg Raises
    • Buttock Tucks
    • Straight Leg Raises, Standing
  • Intermediate Exercise - The athlete can gradually progress to the following mild exercises to start adding some easy weight bearing to the knee.
    • Terminal Knee Extension, Supine
    • Partial Squat, with Chair
    • Quadricep Stretch - Standing
  • Advanced Exercise - Once the surgeon and the physical therapist makes the recommendation, most athletes can move into more advanced rehab exercises to get full strength and mobility back in the knee joint. 
    • Knee Bend, Partial, Single Leg
    • Step-ups, Forward
    • Step-ups, Lateral
    • Terminal Knee Extension, Sitting
    • Hamstring Stretch, Supine
    • Hamstring Stretch, Supine at Wall
    • Exercise Bike
    • Walking

    Your exercise program will likely be supervised by a physical therapist at the direction of your orthopaedic surgeon. As you increase the intensity of your exercise program, you may experience temporary plateaus. If your knee swells or hurts after a particular exercise activity, you should lessen or stop the activity until you feel better and inform your therapist or physician. You should use R.I.C.E., Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation if swelling occurs. Always contact your physician if the symptoms do not respond to this treatment.

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