Tool helps doctors diagnose joint problems - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Tool helps doctors diagnose joint problems

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Kathleen Sicely has been coming to Central Vermont Medical Center's new Orthopedic Center for knee pain.

"I'm here for my knee and I have to have a cortisone shot," Sicely said. "Arthritis in the bone-- against bone-- I go with the pain."

One of the features of the new center is a unique diagnostic tool that can be used on knees and shoulders. Up until recently, MRI-- Magnetic Resonance Imaging-- was the gold standard to diagnose joint pain like Sicely's. But a new high-tech camera called the VisionScope is giving doctors a better look inside and it can all be done in a doctor's office in a half-hour or so.

Using a fellow staff member, Dr. Christopher Meriam shows how a needle with a camera at its tip would be inserted into the knee. He says the procedure has a number of advantages.

"You can do it real -time with a patient sitting there, so they can actually watch and see what you’re doing. They're awake, they're sitting up, it's done with a local anesthetic and it's nice for a patient to be able to see the problem in their knee, so you can make a decision about future further treatment at that time with the patient," Meriam said.

MRIs can be expensive, and in some cases where the patient has had previous surgeries, Meriam says they can also be inconclusive. Up till now, arthroscopic surgery was the best method to see inside. That also uses a camera but it requires larger incisions and is done with a full anesthetic at the hospital.

"You don't have to subject somebody to a formal surgery. The disadvantage is if you go in there and see something you can't treat it with this procedure-- it's strictly a diagnostic tool," Meriam said.

Other disadvantages are the camera can't be used to probe around the tissue and the entire joint is harder to see. The VisionScope is useful for patients who can't have an MRI because they have claustrophobia or implantable devices like a pacemaker.

The CVMC center and UVM Health Network are one of the few Vermont hospitals to have the VisionScope.

"It's an excellent tool and it has improved how we do our job," Meriam said. "For years, I used to think it would be great if we had a way to look into the knee and see it."

And now he can.

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