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- Summary
- About arthroscopy
- Conditions treated
- Before, during and after
- Potential benefits
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Vikas Garg, M.D., MSA


Arthroscopy is the examination of a joint with a device called an arthroscope inserted through a small incision in the skin. An arthroscope is a small, illuminated camera at the end of a narrow tube. It is connected to a monitor to allow for examination, diagnosis and repair of joint problems.

Sometimes arthroscopy is used only to do a visual inspection and make a diagnosis.  With arthroscopic surgery, instruments such as scissors or lasers are inserted through additional small incisions that are much less invasive than traditional open surgeries.

Arthroscopy can be used in treating a number of conditions. In many cases, such as osteoarthritis, this treatment addresses certain symptoms and may be only  temporary. However, it may be the only needed treatment for certain other conditions, particularly trauma to a joint, such as torn cartilage (meniscus) in the knee.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is caused by joint cartilage deterioration. Medial meniscus injury (and knee pain) can occur by twisting the knee violently or by normal aging.

Before the procedure, the patient’s medical history is evaluated and a physician performs a physical examination. X-rays are taken of the joint, and other tests such as MRI or blood tests may be performed.

Arthroscopy is performed with the patient under anesthesia. The surgeon makes an incision in the skin near the joint and inserts an arthroscope. Surgical instruments can be inserted to repair or remove damaged tissues. However, arthroscopy cannot resolve some joint problems, which may need traditional open surgery.

It is usually an outpatient surgery, with the patient going home after spending a few hours in a recovery room. Medications may be prescribed for pain, inflammation and prevention of infection. The patient can usually resume normal activities in a few days.

Risks of arthroscopy are low, and complications are rare. When they do occur, complications are usually minor and treatable.

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Review Date: 04-19-2007

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