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Equine Health Resource

Arthroscopic Surgery, Arthroscopy



Arthroscopic surgery is joint surgery performed through small portals into the joint. It utilizes an arthroscope, which is an elongated stainless steel and glass scope that fits into one portal. An instrument goes into another portal. The process of coordinating the two is called “triangulation.” It requires significant practice to develop the coordination to perform surgery effectively.

The surgery is performed with sterile surgical technique to avoid infection. Patients undergoing arthroscopic surgery are under general anesthesia in an equine surgical suite. The horse is anesthetized. The limb is surgically prepared and draped. A small (1cm) incision is made into the joint and the arthroscope is placed through it into the joint.

Another incision (the instrument portal) is created and an instrument (probe, grabbing forcep or rongeur or other instrument) is placed into that. The joint is explored to fully understand the extent and nature of the injury and the health of the joint. Diagnostic information is gathered.

The entire procedure is usually recorded on digital media or video. The procedure is completed. The joint is flushed into one portal and out the other. The portal incisions are sutured. The limb is bandaged in a sterile bandage, and the horse is taken to the recovery room.

Your role after surgery is critical, as there is often exercise restriction with hand walking for a variable period following surgery. Bandages and surgical sites need to be monitored. Medications may need to be given. Progress will need to be monitored and evaluated.

Consider Potential Side Effects & Complications

There is always some inflammation induced in a joint after surgery. Infection is a possibility whenever a joint is breached. This complication should be rare.

All of the potential side effects of anesthesia apply, including anesthetic death and injury or death during recovery.

Consider Reasons Not To Use This Treatment

Arthroscopic surgery is often not helpful in joints that have chronic arthritic change.

Is It working? Timeframe for effect

Horses undergoing arthroscopic surgery must rest (in general) for 6-8 weeks before returning to work. Sutures are removed from the small portals at about 10-14 days. There is usually a period of bandaging.

The time frame for improvement can be just a few days in horses that have loose fragments in their joints.

Questions To Ask My Vet

  • How much improvement can I expect in my horse with this procedure?
  • What will the follow-up care require?

Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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