The difference between arthroscopy and arthrotomy (an open surgical approach to a joint) is as plain as apples and oranges.


Canine Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy plays a most significant role in the diagnosis and treatment of joint diseases in people and, more recently, dogs too! So much so, in fact, that today arthroscopy has replaced most open joint surgery in people. Why? Because arthroscopy allows for high-definition enhanced, magnified visualization of joint structures for more precise and accurate treatments. Arthroscopy is associated with less pain, less surgical trauma, minimal scarring and faster recoveries. Today, ASG surgeons perform arthroscopy on the stifle (knee), shoulder, elbow, hip and tarsus (ankle) joints.


Arthroscopy has numerous, obvious advantages over arthrotomy for diagnosis and treatment of joint disease for most dogs. Arthroscopy causes less disruption of the soft tissues about the joint - including muscle, tendons, ligaments and joint capsule. And less soft tissue disruption equates to less pain and, in most cases, more rapid return of improved weight bearing function and activity. This is especially true when multiple joints are involved, e.g., bilateral elbow dysplasia, and are operated arthroscopically under the same anesthetic procedure.


Prospective research from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2004 confirms the above claims. By comparing an open surgical approach to the knee joint (arthrotomy) to arthroscopy, this study identified a significant decrease in lameness based on measurement of ground reaction forces, more comfortable range of joint motion, increased thigh circumference/muscle mass and decreased joint fluid inflammation in dogs treated by arthroscopy. To read an abstract of this study, click here.


Arthroscopy may be used for both diagnosis and treatment of joint diseases. As a diagnostic procedure, arthroscopy may prevent the need for an open joint approach and is an important advantage where a surgically treatable lesion is not found.


There should be no controversy over the fact that visualization of joint structures is better with arthroscopy than with an arthrotomy.

In joints like the shoulder and elbow, arthroscopy allows us to examine multiple areas within the joint that would not otherwise be possible without performing multiple incisions and approaches. In addition, the magnification allows our surgeons to see joint disease that may not, or can not, be identified by open joint surgery. Visualization of synovial membrane and cartilage pathology, in particular, is substantially better compared to arthrotomy. And, typically, the length of an arthroscopic procedure is shorter and cosmetic appearance is better following arthroscopy.


ASG surgeons perform arthroscopic procedures for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the shoulder, elbow, stifle (knee) and tarsus (ankle).






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