Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows doctors to visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint. It involves the use of a specialized instrument called an arthroscope, which is a thin, flexible tube equipped with a light source and a high-definition camera.

During an arthroscopic procedure, the surgeon makes small incisions in the skin near the joint and inserts the arthroscope. The camera sends real-time images of the joint's interior to a monitor, allowing the surgeon to examine the structures, such as the cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and synovium.

Here is a general overview of the arthroscopy procedure:

  • Anesthesia: Before the surgery, the patient is usually given either local anesthesia (numbing the joint area) or general anesthesia (patient is unconscious). The choice depends on the joint being examined and the complexity of the procedure.
  • Incisions: The surgeon creates small incisions, typically around 4-6 millimeters in size, near the joint. These incisions serve as portals for inserting the arthroscope and other surgical instruments.
  • Arthroscopic examination: The arthroscope is inserted into the joint through one of the incisions. The surgeon examines the joint structures by maneuvering the arthroscope and views the images on a monitor. The camera provides a detailed visualization of the joint, allowing the surgeon to assess the extent of the problem.
  • Treatment: Based on the findings from the arthroscopic examination, the surgeon may perform various procedures to address the issue. These procedures can include:
    • Repairing or removing damaged cartilage
    • Trimming or removing torn or damaged ligaments or tendons
    • Removing loose bodies or debris from the joint
    • Synovectomy (removal of inflamed synovial tissue)
    • Microfracture (creating tiny holes in the bone to stimulate new cartilage growth)
    • Joint debridement (removal of damaged tissue or bone spurs)
  • Closure: After completing the necessary repairs or treatments, the surgeon removes the arthroscope and closes the incisions with sutures or small adhesive strips. Sometimes, a sterile dressing or compression bandage is applied to the joint.

Arthroscopy offers several advantages over traditional open surgery, including smaller incisions, reduced trauma to surrounding tissues, less pain, faster recovery, and lower risk of complications. Patients often experience shorter hospital stays and can resume their normal activities sooner compared to open surgery.

Arthroscopy is commonly performed on joints such as the knee, shoulder, hip, ankle, wrist, and elbow. It is used for both diagnostic purposes and therapeutic interventions, allowing surgeons to treat a wide range of joint conditions, including ligament tears, cartilage damage, joint inflammation (e.g., arthritis), and certain sports-related injuries.

It's important to note that not all joint conditions can be treated with arthroscopy, and the appropriateness of the procedure depends on various factors. A consultation with an orthopedic surgeon is necessary to determine if arthroscopy is the right option for a particular joint problem.