(Fiberoptic Joint Examination)
by Editorial Staff And Contributors
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
Arthroscopy is a surgery done to examine a joint visually. Most of the time, it is done on large 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.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
Arthroscopy is used to see, diagnose, and treat problems inside your joint. The procedure is most often performed for the following reasons:
Possible Complications TOP
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:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
The type of anesthesia will depend on the joint your doctor is looking at. You may receive one of the following:
Description of the Procedure TOP
Tiny incisions will be made 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 inside of your joint can be viewed. The images may be used to move around other tools that can cut and repair tissue in your joint.
When 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.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
Usually less than 1 hour, but this may be longer if repairs are being done.
Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Post-procedure Care TOP
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. 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.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
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. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 2010. Accessed December 16, 2015.
Katz JN, Brownlee SA, Jones MH. The role of arthroscopy in the management of knee osteoarthritis. Best Pract Res Clni Rheum. 2014;28:143-156.
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.
Salzler MJ, Lin A, Miller CD, et al. Complications after arthroscopic knee surgery. Am J Sports Med. 2014;42(2):292-296.
Thorlund JB, Juhl CB, Roos EM, et al. Arthroscopic knee surgery for degenerative knee: systematic review and meta-analysis of benefits and harms. BMJ 2015;350:h2747
What is arthroscopy? Arthroscopy Association of North America website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 16, 2015.
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 2015 by Laura Lei-Rivera, DPT
Last Updated: 12/20/2014