There was a time when “fixing” an ailing joint meant having surgery with a large incision and a protracted recovery period. But today, many joint issues can be treated using a minimally invasive technique called arthroscopic surgery.
Relying on a special lighted instrument called an arthroscopy, arthroscopic surgery uses a tiny camera and a slim, flexible scope to perform a simple and complex joint repair without larger incisions. Like other types of minimally invasive surgery, arthroscopy is associated with less tissue damage, a lower risk of infections, and a much faster recovery period.
At his practice in Houston, Texas, Joshua D. Harris, MD, specializes in state-of-the-art arthroscopic surgery techniques aimed at helping patients restore joint function while relieving painful symptoms. Here are four conditions where arthroscopic surgery can help.
#1: Acute or chronic injury
Your joints are subjected to a lot of wear and tear, and if you use your joints a lot, the risk of damaging that joint is even higher. The risk of injury is also higher among people who put a lot of strain on their joints and those carrying around some extra pounds.
While an injury causes most acute injuries, chronic joint damage is more often associated with a degenerative condition or repetitive use of a joint. Carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis and golfer’s elbow are all examples of repetitive use injuries that can cause long-lasting, persistent pain.
Arthroscopic surgery is used to treat and repair many joint injuries, including injuries that affect the cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. Dr. Harris uses techniques that can be customized and tailored to each person’s injuries, activities, and other factors for optimal results in every patient.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting millions of Americans. This type of arthritis is caused by wear and tear inside the joint, and while it’s most common among older women and men, it can happen in younger people — especially athletes and other people who use their joints a lot.
In a healthy joint, the ends of the bones are covered with a thick layer of smooth, slick cartilage. This layer protects the bones and helps the joint move normally and without pain. In osteoarthritis, wear and tear breaks down that cartilage layer, causing inflammation, pain, and joint stiffness.
During arthroscopic surgery, Dr. Harris uses special tools to smooth rough areas of cartilage and repair cartilage in areas of excessive wear. He can also smooth away bone spurs, tiny growths that often accompany arthritis, and impede joint movement.
#3: Loose bodies
It might sound like the name of a yoga workout video, but the term “loose bodies” actually describes a condition when a bit of bone or cartilage gets trapped in a joint. These tiny fragments may break away due to an injury (like a fall) or from wear and tear inside the joint.
Loose bodies may remain in one place inside the joint (stable loose bodies), or they may move around when you move (unstable loose bodies). Both types can cause considerable joint pain and a loss of joint movement.
Arthroscopic surgery is highly effective for treating loose bodies in many patients. Dr. Harris uses the arthroscope and special instruments to locate loose bodies and remove them through a tiny incision, then repairs areas of cartilage that may have been damaged by the loose fragment.
Inflammation inside a joint is often attributable to damage to the joint surface or the membrane that lines the joint, called the synovium. Synovitis — inflammation of the synovium — is a common cause of pain in many joints.
While a bit of inflammation is helpful in your body’s natural healing responses, chronic inflammation can cause additional damage inside your joints. As the tissue becomes inflamed and swollen, joint movement is impaired, and painful friction inside the joint increases.
Arthroscopy treats inflammation by removing damaged tissue and repairing the joint surfaces when needed, restoring normal joint movement, and reducing friction inside the joint.
Dr. Harris offers both surgical and conservative treatments for acute and chronic joint pain at his Houston practice, tailoring each treatment plan for optimal results. To learn how he can help relieve your painful joint symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone today.