By Felix Duerr, DVM
LYONS – Arthroscopy (also called arthroscopic surgery) is a fairly new surgical procedure to veterinary medicine that allows evaluation and sometimes treatment of the inside of a joint in a minimally invasive fashion. The surgical procedure uses a tiny viewing instrument called an arthroscope that acts as a camera, and arthroscopic instruments (if treatment is needed). The surgical instruments used are much smaller than traditional instruments and instead oflooking at the joint directly; the joint area is viewed on a video monitor. During arthroscopy only two small incisions are made: one for the arthroscope and one for the surgical instrument(s). This minimally invasive surgery has a multitude of advantages over the conventional joint surgery of arthrotomy (which means to fully open up the joint by an open approach through the muscles and an incision through the joint capsule). Some of those advantages include:
Due to the smaller size of the incisions, arthroscopy is less painful for the patient and allows for quicker recovery.
Due to the magnification provided with the camera, assessment of the joint is more complete and accurate.
The smaller approach causes less tissue trauma and therefore produces less scar tissue while the tissues are healing.
Due to the smaller approach, some of the complications associated with an open procedure (such as patella luxation, or kneecap dislocation, after knee arthrotomy) can be avoided.
Arthroscopy can be used to diagnose and sometimes also treat a joint problem. Arthroscopy is commonly used for:
Confirmation of a tear of the cranial cruciate ligament in the knee;
Treatment of meniscal injuries in the knee;
Treatment of fragmentation of the coronoid process, or a sharp projection of the bone, in the elbow (FCP);
Removal of cartilage flaps (OCD-lesions) from the shoulder, hock, knee and elbow;
Assessment of the hip joints.
Complications from arthroscopy are rare. The most common complication is leakage of the lavage fluid used during the procedure in the surrounding soft tissues which causes swelling of the area surrounding the joint. This problem resolves within a couple days and can be treated with warm compresses. Other complications include: inability to perform the procedure in an arthroscopic fashion (for example if a lesion is too large to take out with the arthroscopic instruments), which requires conversion to an open arthrotomy; nerve damage; and cartilage damage.
Felix Duerr is a veterinarian and surgeon at Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists in Longmont. AMVS is a 24-hour specialty and emergency facility providing internal medicine, surgery, physical rehabilitation and critical care services for pets, located in Longmont at 104 S. Main St. For more information, go to www.AspenMeadowVet.com.Back to Top