If you’ve ever struggled with foot or ankle pain, you know it can be absolutely debilitating. But for many people, one single word can be worse than any of that pain: surgery. The notion of a doctor slicing their skin and poking around is too much to handle, so they simply live with the pain.
Fortunately, there’s a better option.
Arthroscopic surgery is a procedure that’s less invasive than traditional surgery and has less of a recovery time. It’s popular in the world of high-impact sports, but it’s also quite commonly used to treat patients who are simply experiencing pain that prevents them from working or enjoying their daily activities. If you need surgery but have concerns about the usual methods, here’s what you need to know about arthroscopy.
When Is Arthroscopy Recommended?
While arthroscopic surgery is useful for just about any joint, including the shoulder and wrist, it’s especially effective for knee and ankle trouble. If you’ve suffered an injury to the cartilage, bone, or soft tissues that just won’t get better without surgery, a podiatrist might recommend arthroscopy. Specifically, you might see arthroscopy recommended for conditions like:
- Torn cartilage
- A fractured ankle
- Scar tissue or loose debris
- Bone spurs
- Ankle instability
- Plantar fasciitis
What Is Involved in Arthroscopy?
Compared to open surgery which requires a large incision to allow the doctor to operate, arthroscopic surgery actually uses a very small incision (usually about ¼”), a tiny fiber-optic camera, and miniature tools.
Patients having this procedure done will receive either local or general anesthesia. At that point, a surgeon will insert a pencil-sized tube containing a camera and lights into a joint (that tube is called the arthroscope) and operate via a video screen. If needed, tiny surgical tools are also inserted through that same opening.
Most arthroscopic procedures take about an hour or less to complete. Once the procedure is finished, the surgeon will close the incision with sutures and you’ll start the recovery process.
How to Prepare for Surgery
Even though arthroscopy is minimally invasive and you’ll be going home the same day, preparation for an arthroscopic surgery looks the same as most any other surgery. Your doctor’s office will give you specifics, but you can expect guidelines like:
- Not eating or drinking for 8 hours prior
- Arranging for a ride home since you won’t be allowed to drive
- Leaving jewelry or other valuables at home
- Not taking certain medications (both over the counter or prescription) in the days leading up to surgery to prevent excess bleeding
- Wearing loose-fitting clothes since there may be a little swelling
What Is the Recovery Process Like?
One of the biggest advantages of arthroscopy is the recovery time. Since arthroscopic procedures are done on an outpatient basis, it means recovery time is generally a lot faster and the overall recovery process is much easier. It also means:
- A return to daily activities within 48 to 72 hours and full joint function in a few weeks
- Fewer stitches, so there’s very little wound care required (some patients simply keep a small bandage on the area until it heals) and almost no scarring
- No extended (or expensive) hospital stay
- Reduced pain since no muscles or tendons are cut
- Less risk of infection since the initial incision was so small
Most patients have to do nothing more than ice the area, rest, and keep it elevated for a few days.
Call Omaha Foot & Ankle Specialists for Your Arthroscopy
Since 1991, we have been a premier podiatry practice in the Omaha area, finding solutions to foot and ankle problems with comprehensive and compassionate care. From smaller issues like bunions to bigger ones that require surgery, Dr. Michael Cullen and Dr. Nathan Penney are experts on all things related to your feet. If your ankle has a problem that needs surgery but you’re worried about the process, call our office at 402-333-8856 or use our online contact form to discuss how arthroscopic surgery may be the answer you need.