Each year in the United States, more than 1.77 million arthroscopic surgeries take place. Arthroscopy is the next evolution in traditional joint surgeries that used to require large incisions and multiple days in a hospital to recover. Surgeons have found using tiny instruments, a camera, and several smaller cuts in a minimally invasive arthroscopic approach is more beneficial to their patients, often allowing them to return home several hours after their procedure, avoiding an overnight stay in the hospital.

Here’s what you need to know about arthroscopic surgery and how long it takes to heal from these innovative patient-centered procedures.

What Is Arthroscopic Surgery?

Arthroscopic surgery is a technique that allows doctors to look inside a joint in the body to diagnose and treat problems. Typically, a doctor performs the arthroscopic surgery in an outpatient setting, and in most cases, you can go home the very same day. That’s because these surgeries are designed to be minimally invasive on the human body to facilitate a faster healing process.

 During an arthroscopic surgical procedure, you will receive anesthesia to dull pain and make you comfortable. Your doctor will make several small incisions about the size of a buttonhole around the joint that’s being repaired. The doctor will then insert specially made tiny surgical tools through those incisions along with an arthroscope. An arthroscope is a tiny fiber-optic camera lens and a light. That lens captures real-time images of the joint and projects them onto a high-definition monitor so the doctor can conduct the joint repair procedure. With these special tools, the surgeon can view and treat a joint without fully opening up the body. 

 These surgeries are so refined in technique that your doctor can cut or shave a joint, replace a joint, and anchor stitches directly into a bone. The goal in these surgeries is to disturb as little of the surrounding tissue as possible and reduce blood loss. By design, arthroscopic surgery has the following benefits:

  • Faster healing, which means you can begin physical rehabilitation more quickly after surgery
  • Fewer scars
  • Less pain and swelling after the procedure
  • Lowered risk of complications, including infection
  • Shorter hospital stays or even a same-day return home
  • Reduced costs thanks to not having to stay in the hospital

Compare this to traditional open surgery, where the cut is much larger and the recovery time much greater. With that said, there are situations where open surgery is more appropriate. For example, if the joint is severely damaged, open surgery allows the doctor more room to visualize the full scope of the injury and view it directly without a camera. Some of the situations that could make the doctor decide that a traditional open surgery in a hospital setting is a better option include:

  • If the patient has a highly damaged joint or multiple injuries needing repair
  • If a large prosthetic device is used in a joint replacement
  • If the patient has chronic health conditions that create more risk

 While not every patient can qualify for arthroscopic surgery and not every ailment is appropriate for this technique, the benefits of this non-invasive approach in many cases can be substantial.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Arthroscopic Surgery?

While the injury and affected joint have an effect on whether arthroscopic surgery is a good fit for the patient, the patient themself is also a factor to consider. 

Patients experiencing pain or limited joint function may qualify for arthroscopic surgery. Most doctors opt to try non-surgical approaches first. This could include rest, over-the-counter pain relief, ice, or even prescribed medications, physical therapy, or steroid injections. At some point, however, these nonsurgical options may decline in their effectiveness. 

While no one wants to have surgery, at some point, it may be necessary to restore the function of the joint. Each case is different, so your surgeon will evaluate the best procedure to get you back on your feet as quickly as possible.

How Long Does It Take to Recover from Arthroscopic Surgery?

Arthroscopic SurgeryThe specific length of time it takes to recover from an arthroscopic surgery depends upon:

  • Your age
  • General and overall health
  • The joint involved
  • The procedure itself

 While most patients are up and walking during a same-day arthroscopic surgery, general recovery could take weeks or months. Here is what you need to know about recovering from arthroscopic surgery of the knee and hip.

Knee Surgery

Knee arthroscopic surgery could require a recovery period of one to two months, again, depending on the condition and the treatment. The arthroscopic knee surgery recovery period occurs in stages. Many patients return to office work within a week or so. It could take longer to return to a more normal and active lifestyle. 

Typically, we see patients in the first few days just after the surgery using crutches and managing pain. Physical therapists work with these patients over several weeks during recovery to strengthen the joint. Most people regain normal use of the knee within four to six weeks. About three or four months after the procedure the pain, swelling, and restricted motion will gradually decline. 

Hip Surgery 

Hip arthroscopic surgery usually requires about six weeks to recover. If there was damaged tissue that the doctor repaired it could take longer. During this time, you will attend a physical rehab program to help regain balance and strength. It could take up to two months before you can return to work, depending on the type of job you do. Like arthroscopic knee surgery, your follow-up care will help you recover more quickly.

 If you’re suffering from joint pain, talk with our team at the Louisville Hip & Knee Institute, the only independent practice that focuses on outpatient hip and knee replacement.

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