Key Points About Arthroscopic Debridement

  • Arthroscopic debridement is a minimally invasive surgery that is used to diagnose or treat hand, wrist, hip, elbow foot & ankle and knee joint conditions.
  • You may be a candidate if you have an unstable wrist, elbow, ankle, hip, or knee joint.
  • Your doctor will typically try nonsurgical treatments before recommending arthroscopic debridement surgery.
  • During a wrist, hip, ankle, elbow or knee debridement, your orthopedic surgeon will use small incisions to diagnose or repair damaged tissue in the affected joint.
  • Recovery time after arthroscopic debridement is generally short. You should experience minimal scarring and go home on the day of surgery. 

Arthroscopic debridement, also known as scoping or arthroscopic surgery, is an orthopedic surgery that involves removing damaged cartilage or bone.

Depending upon which joint is involved, you may undergo a:

  • Knee arthroscopy.
  • Wrist arthroscopy.
  • Ankle arthroscopy.
  • Hip arthroscopy.

During arthroscopy, your doctor will make a small incision in the affected area. He or she will insert an arthroscope – a small surgical instrument with a camera and light on it into the area to examine the tissues. Your surgeon will be able to see the damage on a computer screen in the OR to diagnose your condition or correct any damaged areas.
Results are positive for most patients. 

Candidates for Arthroscopic Debridement

While an arthroscopic debridement can help relieve symptoms, it is not right for everyone. In most cases, your doctor will exhaust all nonsurgical options before performing an arthroscopic debridement.

Your doctor will evaluate your case, your treatment history, and your overall health to determine if you are a candidate. 

Knee conditions that may warrant knee arthroscopy include:

  • Inflamed synovial membrane.
  • Chondromalacia.
  • Unstable knee.
  • Ligament injuries or tears.
  • Meniscus tear.

Hip conditions that may require a hip arthroscopy include:

  • Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI)
  • Dysplasia
  • Snapping hip syndrome
  • Synovitis
  • Hip joint infection

Wrist conditions that may require a wrist arthroscopy include:

  • Chronic wrist pain
  • Wrist fractures
  • Ganglion cysts
  • Ligament/TFCC tear
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Elbow conditions that may require an elbow arthroscopy include:

  • Elbow adhesions 
  • Elbow contracture
  • Arthritis in the elbow

Ankle conditions that may require an ankle arthroscopy include:

  • Torn cartilage or bone chip that leaves debris in your ankle
  • Severely sprained ankle with ligament damage

Risks Associated with Arthroscopic Debridement

Risks associated with any surgery include:

  • Severe bleeding during the procedure.
  • Infection at the surgery site.
  • Difficulty breathing from anesthesia.
  • Allergic reaction to medications or anesthesia used during surgery.
  • Blood clots in the leg.
  • Joint infection.
  • Damage to structures around the joint such as cartilage, ligaments, blood vessels, or nerves

Preparation for Arthroscopic Debridement

Your doctor will outline what to do to prepare for arthroscopic debridement surgery. 

Guidelines may include:

Inform your doctor of any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or herbal medicines you are taking.

Stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen for a specified period before surgery.

Do not eat or drink anything after midnight on the day before surgery.

If your surgeon has prescribed pain medication for after surgery, fill it the day before surgery.

What to Expect During Arthroscopic Debridement

Arthroscopic debridement of the knee is an outpatient procedure. You will go home the day of the surgery. 

You will be given a local, regional, or general anesthesia to numb the area (local or regional anesthesia) or put you to sleep before surgery (general anesthesia).

During the procedure, your orthopedic surgeon will make a small incision to enter the affected joint. He or she will insert an arthroscope – a medical instrument with a video camera and light on the end – into the joint. Sterile fluid will be injected to expand the joint space and improve visibility. The camera will project images from inside the joint to a video monitor in the operating room.

When the surgeon finds the correct location, he or she will make a series of small incisions around the affected area. Using small surgical instruments, your doctor will repair or remove small pieces of tissue or bone.

Depending on the severity of your case, the surgery will take between 30 minutes to several hours. When the surgery is complete, your surgeon will close the incision with sutures or adhesive strips, then wrap the knee in a compression bandage.

Duration of Arthroscopic Debridement Recovery

Arthroscopic debridement is a minimally invasive surgery. For most people, recovery is relatively quick. You will go home after surgery and use an ice pack to reduce swelling and pain.

When you are at home, coordinate to have a caregiver help you for the first day. Other guidelines include:

  • Elevate and ice the affected joint for a couple of days.
  • Change your surgical dressing over the incision sites.
  • Follow up with your surgeon a few days after surgery.
  • Follow your doctor’s exercise instructions.
  • If recommended, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist to help improve your range of motion and strengthen your muscles. 

Most patients experience a full recovery and return to their normal activity level after surgery.