Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that uses an arthroscope, a long flexible tube with a camera and tiny light on its end, to view an internal area, confirm a diagnosis and repair damage. Compared to traditional open surgery, arthroscopic surgery involves smaller incisions, shorter recovery times and less scarring. A patient often returns home on the same day of the surgery, and can resume regular activities in just a few weeks. After arthroscopic surgery, patients experience restored joint function with less pain and greater range of motion than with traditional open surgery.
Arthroscopy is generally performed for simple joint manipulations, fracture care, debridement and removal of bone fragments. Tendon tears in the knee are frequently repaired through arthroscopic surgery. Other potentially treatable injuries include torn cartilage or ligaments, inflamed joint linings, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tears, and loose bone or cartilage. It is also used to examine joint abnormalities, and provide a diagnosis of many conditions.
During arthroscopic surgery, a small incision is made near the affected joint or bone, and the arthroscope is inserted. Magnified images are then displayed on a video monitor for the surgeon to view in real time. During this diagnostic part of the procedure, ligaments, cartilage and other internal structures are examined for tears, damage and degeneration.
If damage is detected, it can often be immediately repaired by creating a few more small incisions through which tiny surgical instruments are inserted. These instruments allow the surgeon to replace damaged cartilage, join together torn ends, remove loose tissue, or realign the joint to minimize pain and inflammation. Once the repair has been performed, the tools and arthroscope are removed, and the incisions are sutured closed. Arthroscopy often results in less pain and stiffness, fewer complications, and faster recovery than open surgery.