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Arthroscopy

What is an arthroscope?

An arthroscope is a small tube that is inserted into the body that consists of a system of lenses, a small video camera, and a light for viewing. The camera is connected to a monitoring system that allows a surgeon to view the operation while it is being performed. The arthroscope is often used in conjunction with other tools that are generally inserted through another incision. These tools, unlike the arthroscope, are used for grasping, cutting, and probing.

Picture of a man wearing a knee-brace, playing tennis

What is arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a procedure used for joint conditions. Originally, arthroscopy was a diagnostic tool only, used primarily for planning a standard open surgery. However, because of the development of new instruments and advanced surgical techniques, many conditions can also be treated with arthroscopic surgery.

What does arthroscopic surgery generally involve?

Although each procedure varies, generally, arthroscopic surgeries involve the following:

  • A general, local, or spinal anesthetic is administered.

  • A small incision is made in the patient's skin.

  • The arthroscope is inserted through the incision.

  • Other incisions may be made to introduce other small grasping, probing, or cutting tools.

  • Light is transmitted via fiber optics at the end of the arthroscope.

  • Information about the interior of the joint is transmitted to a screen.

  • Corrective surgery, if necessary, may be performed during the initial diagnostic procedure.

  • Dressings or bandages may be applied to the postoperative area.

The small puncture wounds created by the arthroscope and probing tool(s) may take several days to heal.

Recovery time depends on the extent of the surgery and on the individual patient. However, most arthroscopic surgery is done on an outpatient basis, and patients are allowed to go home within hours after the surgery. Some patients resume daily activities and return to work or school within a few days. Athletes and other patients in good physical condition may return to athletic activities within a few weeks, under the care of their doctor.

Joints most frequently examined via arthroscopy

The joints most frequently examined using arthroscopy include the following:

  • Knee

  • Shoulder

  • Elbow

  • Ankle

  • Hip

  • Wrist

Conditions most frequently found with arthroscopy

The following are the conditions most frequently discovered during an arthroscopic procedure:

  • Inflammation, including in the synovium (the lining) of the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or ankle)

  • Injuries, including the following:

    • Rotator cuff tendon tears, impingement syndrome, and recurrent dislocations in the shoulder

    • Meniscal (cartilage) tears, chondromalacia (wearing or injury of cartilage cushion), and anterior cruciate ligament tears with instability in the knee

    • Carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist

  • Pieces of loose bone and/or cartilage (particularly in the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, or wrist)

Always consult your doctor for a treatment recommendation based on your individual condition.