“Arthroscopy or arthroscopic surgery uses a very thin fiber-optic camera called an arthroscope, which is about the width of a No. 2 pencil,” said Sutter Delta Sports Medicine Medical Director Dr. Benjamin Busfield. “By inserting the arthroscope into the joint through a very small incision, your physician can evaluate your joint injury without causing excessive soft-tissue damage.”
For patients with chronically painful injuries that haven’t responded to rest, physical therapy, medications or injections to reduce inflammation, arthroscopic surgery is often the best option for relieving pain, stiffness and swelling.
“Once your problem has been diagnosed through arthroscopy, your surgeon will use very small tools to repair your joint by trimming damaged cartilage, removing debris or reattaching torn ligaments,” said Busfield.
Repetitive-motion sports such as throwing, and sports like tennis and golf, can damage the shoulder and elbow joints. Rotator cuff damage occurs when a tear appears in the muscles or tendons that connect your arm bone (humerus) to your shoulder blade and that hold your humerus firmly in your shoulder socket. Elbow joints are also vulnerable to sports injuries. Under stress, small fragments of bone and cartilage can dislodge and cause pain and stiffness.
High-impact sports can break down knee and hip joints. The bones of the knee are connected by four ligaments; two pads of connective tissue, each called a meniscus, lie underneath. Tearing a meniscus or the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are two common knee injuries that often require arthroscopic surgery. In the hip joint, surgeons frequently use arthroscopy to remove damaged bone or cartilage and repair tears in a thick tissue known as the labrum deep inside your hip joint. During surgery, physicians enter a patient’s hip from the front using a specially designed table called the HANA table, which enables noninvasive access to the joint.
“Rotator cuff injuries often occur in patients over 50 due to age-related wear and tear, while patients in their 30s and 40s tend to be weekend warriors who overtrain, leading to meniscus tears, ACL injuries or cartilage damage” said Busfield.
Since arthroscopy doesn’t require fully opening the joint by cutting through muscle and tissue, the procedure causes less scarring and trauma.
“Arthroscopic surgery is analogous to trying to fix a problem inside your house from the outside; you can access the problem by either knocking down an outside wall or going through a window,” Dr. Busfield noted. “If you go through a window, you create less damage. That’s similar to the solution arthroscopy provides.”
At Sutter Delta Medical Center, the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Program offers arthroscopic surgeries performed by specially-trained orthopedic surgeons.
– Contributed by Julie Ruiz-Wibbelsmann, Sutter Health East Bay Region writer/publications coordinator