Facts About Shoulder Arthroscopy and its Uses
In simple terms, the phrase “shoulder arthroscopy” means to look inside or explore the interior of the mentioned joint. While physicians and surgeons in other disciplines of medicine have employed instruments to peer inside body cavities for almost 200 years, comparable technology only became available to the orthopaedic specialist just over a century ago, in 1919. At that time, a Tokyo professor named Kenji Takagi modified a device used by urinogenital surgeons to inspect the bladder to take a peek inside a knee joint. These primitive instruments were limited to the technology of the time, relying on mirrors, a candle, and an eyepiece to provide the surgeon’s view.
Today, shoulder arthroscopy and internal examinations of most other articulating joints are performed using more sophisticated instruments. The illumination is now provided by a powerful light-emitting diode in the modern device and directed onto the examination area via a fibre-optic cable. Lenses provide a magnified image, which is then captured by a video camera, recorded, and displayed in full colour on a monitor screen.
Initially, the focus of this new procedure was confined to the hip and knee joints. Also, its purpose was exclusively that of a diagnostic aid. However, shoulder arthroscopy became a more practical option as the underlying technology improved and users became more experienced. Furthermore, pioneering surgeons successfully adapted the diagnostic procedure to begin performing minimally invasive surgical interventions to treat damaged and diseased joints.
In practice, this innovative transition has required many orthopaedic specialists to undergo additional training in the technique of these new procedures. Nevertheless, it has also resulted in some valuable benefits for their patients. Avoiding open surgery reduces the attendant risks of infection and excessive bleeding, and post-op recovery times are significantly shorter. Let us take a look at some of the common reasons for performing shoulder arthroscopy.
X-rays and an arthroscopic examination are widely used to establish or confirm a diagnosis. However, once the scope is in position, it is now standard practice to decide on the next step and perform the necessary remedial surgery during the same appointment. Typically, this will be the approach when treating a patient with a torn ligament or a tear in the ring of cartilage known as the labrum. Sometimes, the entire joint may be unstable, leading to repeated dislocations. A torn biceps tendon or rotator cuff injury are also indications to perform shoulder arthroscopy.
To ensure expert treatment by a skilled and experienced team, a growing number of South African and overseas practitioners are referring their patients to the orthopaedic unit of the Life Wilgers Hospital in Pretoria.