Case history: Dogs (n = 6) suffering from elbow-associated lameness for a median of 3.5 (min 2, max 12) months duration requiring arthroscopic exploration according to imaging results were prospectively included in this study.
Clinical findings: Dogs that met the inclusion criteria were of various breeds with a median body weight of 18 (min 13.2, max 34.5) kg and median age at presentation of 11 (min 6, max 96) months.
Results: of imaging modalities (radiographs and/or CT) were consistent with developmental elbow disease in all of the dogs.
Arthroscopic findings: Feasibility of the needle arthroscopy procedure was first assessed in a preliminary cadaveric study. Disease-free cadaveric forelimbs (n = 12) were collected from adult dogs (n = 6) euthanised for reasons unrelated to the present study. Elbow exploration was performed, beginning with needle arthroscopy (1 mm, 0° angle scope) followed by standard arthroscopy (2.4 mm, 30° angle scope) through a medial approach. The ease of introduction, range of motion and the quality of visualisation were assessed subjectively and presence of iatrogenic introduction lesions and extent of field of vision (assessed by the number of anatomical structures visualised) were scored and statistically compared. Needle arthroscopy allowed inspection of all structures at risk for medial/caudal compartment disease in all joints considering the occasional need for multiple portals. In the clinical setting, elbow exploration was found to be similar to that in cadaver joints in 4/6 dogs. The lower quality of vision provided by needle arthroscopy was a limitation of the technique, and 2/6 clinical cases required conversion to standard arthroscopy for full visualisation of the joint. No introduction lesions were noted with needle arthroscopy in either the cadaveric or clinical studies.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Needle arthroscopy allowed safe visualisation of all the structures of the medial and caudal compartment in disease-free cadaveric elbows, suggesting that needle arthroscopy is an appropriate technique for diagnosis and assessment of lesions of developmental elbow disease. However, the low quality of vision provided by the 1 mm scope, and the small diameter of the sleeve, which limited fluid inflow, combined with fragility of the device were major drawbacks that prevented consistent full exploration of the joint and detailed lesion assessment in clinical situations. Improvement of the device is thus necessary before use of the technique in clinical practice can be recommended.