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joint decision: arthroscopic surgery for pets

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan


Chances are that you know one or more people who have had arthroscopic surgery, or maybe you’ve had it yourself!  Arthroscopic surgery is quite common in human medicine and is becoming more common in veterinary medicine as well.

Arthroscopy is the examination of a joint using endoscopy. An endoscope generally consists of a flexible or rigid tube with a camera and a light source, and it is used to examine the inside of body cavities. In the case of arthroscopic surgery, the endoscope is used to examine your dog’s joints. 

Arthroscopy has many advantages over surgically opening a joint:

  • Better visualization and access tight joint spaces
  • Minimally invasive
  • Better diagnostic accuracy
  • Decreased patient pain
  • Decreased surgery and anesthetic times
  • Lower complication rates
  • Decreased average length of hospital stay
  • More rapid recovery rate

How is arthroscopic surgery used in veterinary medicine?


In veterinary medicine, arthroscopic surgery is now a standard diagnostic and therapeutic option for joint disorders.

In small animal medicine, the exploration and treatment of canine elbow dysplasia is the most common application for arthroscopy. 

Arthroscopy is also routinely used to examine the canine shoulder for a painful condition called osteochondrosis dessicans (OCD) and biceps tenosynovitis, and it can be used in the knee to explore ruptured cruciate ligaments and look for damage to the surrounding tissues.

In addition to being able to visualize the inside of your dog’s joint, veterinarians can use arthroscopy to treat some conditions, like biceps tenosynovitis and OCD. By using tiny instruments that fit through the endoscopic tubing, your veterinarian can remove bone fragments, clean up damaged joints and relieve discomfort.

Not all veterinarians perform arthroscopy. Endoscopic equipment is expensive and is often cost prohibitive for a general practitioner. Furthermore, endoscopy is an art that requires skill which can only come through an abundance of practice. If your pet can benefit from arthroscopic surgery, he or she will likely be referred to a veterinary specialist instead of your regular vet. The good news is Petplan pet insurance can help you manage the costs of the surgery. 

Currently, arthroscopic surgery has a more limited use in cats and small dogs, as their joint spaces are often too small to accommodate the required equipment. But as the field is refined, more applications will surely become available, including the use of arthroscopy in cats and small dogs, as well as in joints other than the knee, shoulder or elbow. 

 

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Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
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