An arthrotomy is surgery that cuts off a joint.
The medical term “arthrotomy” means “cut in a joint”. Also known as a synosteotomy, this procedure can be performed for a variety of reasons, usually as part of a larger surgery that is intended to treat a problem within the joint or a problem with one or more of the bones that articulate in the joint. Procedures of this nature are usually performed by an orthopedic surgeon, a medical professional who specializes in surgeries involving bones and joints.
An arthrotomy will likely be performed by an orthopedic surgeon.
One reason to perform this procedure is to gain access to the joint for the purpose of repair or replacement surgery. Cutting the joint may be necessary to access the surgical field and make the inside of the joint visible to the physician. However, it also increases healing time. Historically, surgeons had to weigh the damage caused by arthrotomy against the need to access the joint when making treatment recommendations to patients.
Most arthrotomy incisions are covered in a sterile dressing for a few days to a week after surgery.
Today, cutting the joints is less necessary because surgeons can perform arthroscopic surgeries. In this type of procedure, cameras are inserted into the joint along with tools that can be used to perform manipulations within the joint. This allows the surgeon to work within the surgical field without having to cut the joint to do so. Minimally invasive surgery is safer for the patient, lowers the risk of complications, and considerably shortens healing time, making it an attractive choice when an option is available.
Orthopedic surgeons should carefully review the patient’s x-ray before performing an arthrotomy.
Cutting a joint may also be necessary during an amputation or during exploratory surgery where arthroscopic surgery is not an option. Arthroscopy may not be possible in some emergency situations, for example, or when a joint is so crushed that the surgeon cannot understand what is happening within the surgical field without looking directly at it.
An arthrotomy may be necessary during an amputation.
When arthrotomy is required as part of a medical procedure, the surgeon uses specialized tools that are designed to quickly and efficiently cut through the joints, minimizing damage. The surgeon plans the cuts in advance so that when the patient is on the table, the surgeon already has a plan in mind for performing the surgery. Patients should be aware that even “routine” surgeries can have complications, and a good surgeon will discuss the potential risks of a procedure before starting so that the patient is prepared ahead of time.