Arthroscopic Surgery for TMJ
Medical management using pain relievers, antibiotics and other drugs is usually effective in treating most disorders of the temporomandibular joint and its surrounding structures. Other modalities of treatment include physical therapy, diet modification, stress management and hypnosis. Very few patients will actually need open surgery. Furthermore, an alternative to conventional surgery exists, and this is arthroscopic surgery, which is far less invasive.
In arthroscopic TMJ surgery, a small (around 3 cm) incision is made to allow a fiber optic camera to pass through the skin and examine the joint and its surrounding structures. The surgeons are able to visualize the operating field on a screen, while inserting and manipulating instruments through the opening. In this procedure an accurate diagnosis can be made, at the same time allowing immediate treatment, which may include repair of ligaments, muscles, nerves and joints. Rinsing of the tissues (lavage) may also be performed during the operation.
The procedure can last up to three hours, after which the patient will be allowed to recover from anesthesia. He may then go home with a companion and will be able to drink and eat a soft diet. Full recovery usually takes one to three weeks and, depending on the TMJ disorder, he may need physical therapy for full jaw function.
Because of the simplicity of the procedure, arthroscopy has many benefits, compared to conventional surgery, such as:
- Less bleeding and infection
- Smaller incision, less scarring
- May be done on an out-patient basis, so patient can go home within hours of the operation
- Less post-operative pain and fewer complications
The risks of this procedure are similar to any surgery, and the most common is failure to alleviate symptoms. Other risks and complications include bleeding, infection and injury to nerve.
Many conditions affecting the muscles, ligaments and bones of the jaw can be treated medically; however, there are a few conditions which do not respond to medical therapy and may require surgery. Arthroscopy is a simple and safe mode of treatment for severe pain and dysfunction of the jaw.