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Vets during keyhole surgery
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Arthroscopy (keyhole surgery)

This is a minimally invasive surgical technique which introduces a small camera on a rigid endoscopy into the joint through a small stab incision. The benefits of a small incision include rapid wound healing and less debilitation from an open surgery with a large wound. Following many arthroscopic procedures patients will be weight bearing on the limb on the day following surgery.

What size is the rigid endoscope?

The rigid endoscopes or arthroscopes available in our clinic range from 1.9mm to 4.0mm wide. This allows access into even the smallest joints. Although technically demanding, we have performed arthroscopy in dogs as small as Jack Russell terriers and even in cats.

Which joints is arthroscopy most commonly used on?

Arthroscopy can be performed in most of the large joints in the body. The joints we most commonly use this technique in are:

  • Elbow
  • Shoulder
  • Stifle (knee)

Other joints which are less commonly assessed are:

  • Tarsus
  • Carpus
  • Hip
What is arthroscopy used for?

This technique has two main purposes:

  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment

Arthroscopy is used to assess the cartilage and structures within the joint to evaluate pathology. This can form part of the diagnostic process for assessment of some conditions such as elbow dysplasia. In other conditions, arthroscopy may be used to treat as well as diagnose a condition such as removal of an OCD cartilage flap from the shoulder.

What are the advantages of this technique over standard ‘open’ surgery?

Arthroscopy has been shown to reduce morbidity in patients, meaning they are more comfortable and less debilitated after this procedure compared to an ‘open’ approach. The magnification from the arthroscope allows more detailed assessment of cartilage and intraarticular structures. The surgical incisions are small, leading to more rapid wound healing. Complications are rare with this technique provided the high level of experience of the surgeon. Our specialists have both been performing arthroscopic surgery for over 10 years and have marked experience in carrying out and teaching this technique.

Can all procedures be performed arthroscopically?

Although we are able to use this technique to assess and treat various conditions in many joints, some procedures are still performed as an open approach either due to the limitations of the technique or due to surgeon preference. Our aim is to perform as many procedures in a minimally invasive way as possible but if a more predictable outcome is offered with an open approach, this will be discussed with the owner at the time of consultation.

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