Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure during which the internal structure of a joint is examined and problems inside the joint may be treated. In an arthroscopic examination, a small incision is made in the patient's skin through which pencil-sized instruments that have a small camera and lighting system (arthroscope) are passed. The arthroscope magnifies and illuminates the structures of the joint with light that is transmitted fiber optically. The scope is attached to a video camera and the interior of the joint is seen on a television monitor.
Arthroscopic examination of a joint is helpful in diagnosing and treating the following conditions:
- Inflammation: Synovitis is the inflammation of the joint lining. It can occur in the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or ankle.
- Acute or chronic injury: Cartilage tears, tendon tears, and carpal tunnel syndrome can be diagnosed and repaired with arthroscopy.
- Osteoarthritis: A type of arthritis caused by cartilage loss
- Removal of loose pieces of bone or cartilage that are trapped within the joint
During arthroscopic surgery, either a general, spinal, or local anesthetic is given depending on the condition. A small incision of the size of a buttonhole is made through which the arthroscope is inserted. Other incisions will be made through which specially designed instruments are inserted. After the procedure is complete, the arthroscope is removed and the incisions are closed. You may be instructed about the incision care, activities to be avoided, and exercises to be performed for a swift recovery.
Some of the possible complications after arthroscopy include infection, blood clots, excessive swelling, bleeding, blood vessel or nerve damage, and instrument breakage.
It may take several weeks for the surgical incisions to heal and for the joint to recover completely. A rehabilitation program may be advised for a speedy recovery. Typically, you can resume normal activities within a few days.