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.

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, we are able to treat many conditions with arthroscopic surgery.

We use arthroscopy to treat conditions including:

  • Inflammation, including in the lining of the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist or ankle
  • Rotator cuff tendon tears
  • Shoulder impingement syndrome
  • Recurring shoulder dislocations
  • Meniscal (cartilage) tears
  • Wearing or injury of cartilage cushion
  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears with instability in the knee
  • Hip labral tears
  • Pieces of loose bone and/or cartilage (particularly in the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle or wrist)

What does arthroscopic surgery generally involve?

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

  1. A general, local or spinal anesthetic is administered.
  2. A small incision is made in the patient’s skin.
  3. The arthroscope is inserted through the incision.
  4. Other incisions may be made to introduce other small grasping, probing or cutting tools.
  5. Light is transmitted via fiber optics at the end of the arthroscope.
  6. Information about the inside of the joint is transmitted to a screen.
  7. Corrective surgery, if necessary, may be performed.
  8. 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.