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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.
Arthroscopy can be done to diagnose an injury or a condition.
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Arthroscopy 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:
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.
Usually less than 1 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. 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.
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
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Last reviewed December 2015 by Laura Lei-Rivera, DPT Last Updated: 12/20/2014