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What is an arthroscope?

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

What is arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a procedure used for joint conditions. Originally, arthroscopy was used mainly for planning a standard open surgery. However, because of the development of new instruments and advanced surgical techniques, many conditions can also be treated using an arthroscope.

Arthroscopic meniscus repair
Click image to enlarge

What does arthroscopic surgery generally involve?

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

  • You will receive a general, local, or spinal anesthetic.

  • A small incision is made in your 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 done  during the initial diagnostic procedure.

  • Dressings or bandages may be put on the incisions.

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

Recovery time varies. However, most arthroscopic surgery is done on an outpatient basis. This means you can go home within hours after the surgery. Some people get back to their normal activity within a few days. Athletes and other people 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 see your doctor for a treatment recommendation based on your individual condition.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ogiela, Dennis, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 11/4/2015
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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