As with any profession, podiatrists have many different tools we can use to achieve results. This is important because we have to consider a variety of factors when deciding the best course of treatment for our patients. Now, in an ideal world, everything could be effectively addressed without needing surgical intervention, but the real world doesn’t quite work that way. There are times when surgery does constitute the best path. Even within the realm of surgery, we do have various options at our disposal, including minimally-invasive procedures like arthroscopy.
An Introduction to Arthroscopy
In this procedure, the equipment we use is a narrow tube attached to a fiber optic video camera, which avoids the need to make a large incision (as would be used in traditional surgery). Instead, we will make only a small incision (roughly the size of a buttonhole), insert the tube, and then use a high-definition video monitor to see what is happening inside your body during the surgery.
Minimally-invasive procedures have an array of benefits over other surgical options, including quicker recovery times, lower infection risk, and less scarring than traditional surgeries. Additionally, they can be performed on an outpatient basis and the risk of complications is low.
We may recommend arthroscopy for issues like:
- Damaged or torn cartilage
- Inflamed joint linings
- Joint pain or infections
- Loose bone fragments
- Scarring within joints
- Torn ligaments
Accordingly, arthroscopy can be a great treatment option for patients who have developed an arthritic condition in their feet or ankles.
What You Should Know About Arthroscopic Procedures
Just like any form of surgery, there is a risk for certain complications, but the good news is that these are not particularly common. When they do happen, these may include tissue damage, infection, and blood clots. Tissues can potentially become damaged based on movement and placement of arthroscopy instruments within a joint. Infection risk is present with any invasive procedure (but is not as high with minimally-invasive surgeries like these ones). In rare instances, procedures lasting over an hour can result in the development of blood clots in either the lungs or legs.
It is important to know that the risk of those potential complications is greatly reduced when using a minimally-invasive procedure like arthroscopy. We only mention them because a slight risk does still exist.
As with any form of surgery, there are certain measures you will need to take to prepare before your procedures. Naturally, we will provide specific instructions to you, but some general preoperative considerations include:
- Arranging a ride. On account of the anesthesia used, you will not likely be able to drive following the procedure. Make sure you ask a friend or family member for a ride to and from your appointment.
- Avoiding certain medications. Sometimes, medications can affect the effectiveness of anesthesia. We will discuss this to make sure there are no issues in this regard.
- Fasting beforehand. Another matter we will discuss is when you need to stop eating prior to your arthroscopic procedure.
- Wearing loose, comfortable clothing. You will wear a hospital gown or shorts for the procedure, but it will be easier (and more comfortable) for you to put on loose clothing afterward.
Depending on your specific procedure, we may provide local, regional, or general anesthesia. Additionally, we might use a tourniquet to decrease any potential blood loss, while also making it easier to see inside the area. In some cases, we may fill the area with a sterile fluid to provide extra room for a successful procedure.
A key benefit to arthroscopy is that only a small incision is needed to admit the surgical device. There may be additional incisions—small enough to be closed with only one or two stitches (or even sterile adhesive tape)—made at different points, but this is preferable to the larger cuts made during traditional procedures.
Whether or not we recommend an arthroscopic procedure for you will depend on several variables, but we cannot make this call until you come to see us here at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle. Our Medford, OR practice provides comprehensive foot care services, so contact us today. Give us a call at (541) 776-3338 or simply fill out our online form to connect with us.