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Arthroscopy is a surgery done to examine a joint visually. Most of the time, it is done on larger joints, like the knee or shoulder. A special tool called an arthroscope is used. It is an instrument that looks like a long tube with a miniature camera on the end. Repairs or corrections to the joint may be done by using the arthroscope and other tools.
Diagnostic Arthroscopy of the Right Knee
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It is used to see, diagnose, and treat problems inside your joint. The procedure is most often performed for the following reasons:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
The type of anesthesia will depend on the joint your doctor is looking at. You may receive one of the following:
The doctor will make tiny incisions in the skin along the joint. Special tools will be inserted through the incisions. The tools include the arthroscope. The picture from the arthroscope will show up on a screen so that the doctor can see the inside of your joint. The doctor may use the images to move around other tools that can cut and repair tissue in your joint.
Once the examination or surgery is done, 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 examination.
Usually less than one hour, but this may be longer if repairs are being done.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
The dressings can sometimes be removed as early as the next morning. When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
It takes 4-6 weeks for the joint to recover. You can probably go back to work or resume daily activities within a few days, as long your doctor approves. You may be instructed to use crutches or a cane for the first few days if the surgery was done on a joint in your legs. A specific activity and rehabilitation program may be suggested. This will help speed your recovery and protect future joint function.
Athletes often return to athletic competition within a few weeks.
Note: Repair of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) by arthroscope may require a recovery time of 4-6 months and a more specialized rehabilitation program.
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Ortho Info—American Academy
of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Arthritis Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Arthroscopy? American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 2010. Accessed December 18, 2014.
Lindström D, Azodi O, et al. Effects of a perioperative smoking cessation intervention on postoperative complications: A randomized trial. Ann Surg. 2008;248:739-745.
What is arthroscopy? Arthroscopy Association of North America website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 18, 2014.
Yacub J, Rice B, et al. Nerve injury in patients after hip and knee arthroplasties and knee arthroscopy. Am J PhysMed Rehabil. 2009;88:635-641.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014