Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure during which the internal structure of a joint is examined for diagnosis and treatment of problems inside the joint. In an arthroscopic examination, a small incision is made in the patient’s skin through which pencil-sized instruments with a small lens and lighting system (arthroscope) are passed. Arthroscope magnifies and illuminates the structures of the joint. The arthroscope is attached to a television camera and the interior of the joint is seen on the television monitor.
Arthroscopic examination of joints is helpful in diagnosis and treatment of the following conditions:
- Inflammation: synovitis, the inflammation of the lining of the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or ankle
- Acute or chronic injury: Injuries to the shoulder, knee and wrist joint such as cartilage tears, tendon tears, carpal tunnel syndrome
- Osteoarthritis: A type of arthritis caused by cartilage loss in a joint
- Removal of loose bodies of bone or cartilage that becomes logged within the joint
During arthroscopic surgery, either a general, spinal or local anesthesia will be given depending on the condition. A small incision of the size of a button is made through which the arthroscope is inserted. Other accessory incisions will be made through which specially designed instruments are inserted. After the procedure is completed the arthroscope is removed and the incisions are closed.
Some of the possible complications after arthroscopy include infection, phlebitis (clotting of blood in vein), excessive swelling, bleeding, or blood vessel or nerve damage.
It may take several weeks for the puncture wounds to heal and the joint to recover completely. A rehabilitation program may be advised for a speedy recovery of normal joint function.