Sunday, September 11, 2005

Arthroscopic Surgery

"Not too long ago, when an athlete was felled by a serious knee injury, he most likely could kiss the season, and possibly his career, goodbye. Invasive operations followed by months of exhaustive and painful rehabilitation were the norm. How things have changed. With the advent of technological breakthroughs in the fields of medicine and fiber optics, athletes of all levels can be back on the playing field in as little as six weeks. One of the primary advances making these quick recoveries possible has been arthroscopic surgery."

In the 1980s, improved fiber optic imaging technology first delivered vivid, high magnification, television views of the interior of joints in "real time". Combining this brilliant view of the joint with new advances in remotely manipulable miniature instruments, orthopaedic surgeons now exploited the tiny arthroscopic incisions not just for observation--as they had for generations--but for the entire surgery.

Dr. Fronek, the head team physician for the San Diego Padres, explains the basics of arthoscopic surgery and how it has revolutionarized sports medicine:

"In any operation, the length of the incision is directly related to the amount of pain that the patient is going to experience after surgery because a greater amount of healing needs to take place inside the joint to recover from the trauma of the operation. The arthroscope allows you to make much
smaller incisions. The patient has a faster, less painful recovery period."

For a straightforward history of arthroscopy beginning with the Japanese scientist who pioneered this observational technique early in the twentieth century and ending with a good description of the 1980s breakthrough, where improved fiber optic imaging technology and remotely maneuverable
micro-instrumentation moved arthroscopy from "just looking" to surgery, click here.

Thanks to Gene Barth, a frequent contributor to TIA Daily, for recommending the links and for the description.

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