1 What is an Arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a procedure for dignosis and treating joint problems.

A surgeon inserts a narrow tube attched to a fiber-optic video camera through a small incision that is about the size of a buttonhole.

The view inside you your joint is trasnmitted to a high-definition video monitor. Arthroscopy allows the surgeon to see inside your joint without making a large incision.

Surgeons can even repair some types of joint damage during arthroscopy, with pencil-thin surgical intruments inserted through additional small incisions.

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2 Reasons for Procedure

Doctors utilize arthroscopy to help make a diagnosis and treat a variety of joint conditions, most commonly those affecting the:

  • knee
  • shoulder
  • elbow
  • ankle
  • hip
  • wrist

There are many reasons to decide to undergo an arthroscopy procedure.

Diagnostic procedures

Doctors often use arthroscopy if X-rays and other imaging studies have left some diagnostic questions answered.

Surgical procedures

The following conditions can be treated with arthroscopy:

  • loose bone fragments
  • damaged torn cartilage
  • inflamed joint linings
  • joint infections
  • torn ligaments
  • scarring within joints

3 Potential Risks

Arthroscopy does not have a lot of potential risks and complications.

However, if present, may include:

  • tissue damage
  • infection
  • blood clots

4 Preparing for your Procedure

The precise preparations for an arthroscopy procedure depend on which of your joints the surgeon is examining or fixing.

In general, you must do the following:

  • Avoid certain medication or dietary supplements that can increase tour risk of bleeding
  • Make sure you fast beforehand, especially by avoiding solid foods eight hours before your procedure
  • Arrange for a ride in advance and also choose the appropriate clothing. Wearing loose, comfortable clothing is greatly advised

5 What to Expect

Read on to learn more about what to expect during and after an arthroscopy procedure.

Experience varies depending on why you're having the procedure and which joint is involved.

However, some aspects of arthroscopy are fairly standard. You will remove your normal clothes and jewellery and put on a hospital gown or shorts. Then a nurse will place an intravenous catheter in your forearm and inject the sedative.

During the procedure

Local anaesthesia

Numbing agents will be injected below the skin to block sensation in a limited area, such as your knee. You will conscious during your arthroscopy, but the most you'll feel is pressure or a sensation of movement within the joint.

Regional anesthesia

The most common form of regional anesthesia is delivered through a small tube placed between two of your spine's lumbar vertebrae. This numbs the bottom half of your body, but you remain awake.

General anesthesia

Depending on the length of the operation, it may be better for you to be unconscious during the procedure. General anesthesia is delivered through a vein (intravenously).

You'll be placed in the best position for the procedure you're having. This may be on your back, on your abdomen or on your side. The limb being worked on will be placed in a positioning device, and a tourniquet might be used to decrease blood loss and make it easier to see inside the joint.

Another technique to improve the view inside your joint is to fill it with a sterile fluid, which helps distend the area and provide more room. One small incision will admit the viewing device. Additional small incisions at different points around the joint allow the surgeon to insert surgical tools to grasp, cut, grind and provide suction as needed for joint repair.

Incisions will be small enough to be closed with one or two stitches, or with narrow strips of sterile adhesive tape.

After the procedure

Arthroscopic surgery usually takes between 30 minutes and two hours, depending on the procedure. After that, you'll be taken to a separate room to recover for a few hours before going home.

Your aftercare may include


Your doctor will prescribe medication to relieve pain and inflammation.


At home, you'll need to rest, ice, compress and elevate the joint for several days to reduce swelling and pain.


You might need to use temporary splints — slings or crutches for comfort and protection.


Your doctor might prescribe physical therapy and rehabilitation to help strengthen your muscles and improve the function of your joint.

Call your surgeon if you develop

  • A temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius)
  • Higher Pain not helped by medication
  • Drainage from your incision
  • Redness or swelling
  • New numbness or tingling

In general, you should be able to resume desk work and light activity in a week, and more strenuous activity in about four weeks. However, your situation might dictate a longer recovery period and rehabilitation.

6 Procedure Results

Your surgeon will analyze the findings of the arthroscopy results and will discuss them with you as soon as possible.

You might also receive a written report. Following arthroscopic surgery to treat a joint injury or disease, healing may take several weeks.

Your surgeon will monitor your progress in follow-up visits and address the complications.

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