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Arthroscopy is a surgery to examine a joint. It is most often done on large joints like the knee or shoulder. Areas of the joint may also be repaired.
Arthroscopy of the Right Knee
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Arthroscopy may be done to:
Problems from the procedure are rare. All procedures have some risk. Your doctor will talk about possible problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
The type of anesthesia will depend on the joint. The care team will talk to you about one of the following:
Small cuts will be made in the skin along the joint. A long thin tool will be inserted through the cuts. The tool has a scope with a small camera. The doctor will be able to the inner joint area on a screen in the room. The scope will be moved to examine the entire joint and look for problems. Other small tools may be passed through the cuts to remove or repair damaged tissue. Work that can be done include:
The tools will be removed. The skin may be closed with stitches or clips. The incisions will be covered with a dressing. The fluid or tissue that was removed may be sent to a lab for exam.
Usually less than 1 hour. It may take longer if repairs are being done.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after can be managed with medicine.
It may take 4 to 6 weeks for the joint to fully recover if a repair was done. Exercises and physical therapy may be suggested.
Athletes often return to athletic competition within a few weeks.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Ortho Info—American Academy
of Orthopaedic Surgeons
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Arthroscopy. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.org/en/treatment/arthroscopy. Accessed December 19, 2020.
Katz JN, Brownlee SA, Jones MH. The role of arthroscopy in the management of knee osteoarthritis. Best Pract Res Clin Rheum. 2014;28:143-156.
Pitta M, Davis W 3rd, Argintar EH. Arthroscopic management of osteoarthritis. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2016;24(2):74-82.
Thorlund JB, Juhl CB, Roos EM, Lohmander LS. Arthroscopic knee surgery for degenerative knee: systematic review and meta-analysis of benefits and harms. BMJ 2015;350:h2747.
What is arthroscopic surgery? Arthroscopy Association of North America website. Available at:
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Accessed December 19, 2020.
Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 12/19/2020