The trend in orthopedics over the last several decades had been toward less invasive and minimally invasive surgeries which, by sparing muscles and tendons, allow procedures to be done with a shorter hospital stay or most often on an outpatient basis. Patients typically experience less pain with quicker recovery and return to normal activities. One of the chief methods of achieving minimally invasive techniques is through the use of arthroscopy. The word arthroscopy literally translated means to look inside of a joint.
With the advent of modern arthroscopy forty years ago, orthopedic surgeons could initially only take a peek inside of a joint to diagnose pathology accurately. Over time, instruments were developed so that procedures could actually be performed in the joint with slender arthroscopic tools placed through “portals” in the skin just a few millimeters in length. These tools have since continually been refined to broaden the range of procedures that could be done arthroscopically. In addition, there are a wide variety of implants available now that can be inserted arthroscopically. These include screws, sutures, cables, buttons and other devices. Some of these are made of metal while others are permanent polymers. Some anchors implanted in bone are designed to resorb and be replaced by bone.
Many complex repairs and reconstructive surgeries that in past decades required large incisions can now be performed utilizing these modern arthroscopic techniques. Ligament repair or reconstruction, tendon repair or reattachment to bone, removal of torn or damaged tissue, fracture repair, reshaping bone or removal of bone spurs and other techniques can be performed safely on an outpatient basis with Band-Aid size incisions. Thus, arthroscopic techniques have been one of the biggest breakthroughs over the last forty years in achieving excellent outcomes in orthopedic surgery through minimally invasive techniques.