Main Page Content

​​​​​What is Arthroscopy? 

Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure orthopedic surgeons use to visualize, diagnose and treat problems inside a joint.

In an arthroscopic examination, a surgeon makes a small incision in the patient's skin and then inserts pencil-sized instruments that contain a small lens and lighting system to magnify and light up the structures inside the joint. By attaching the arthroscope to a miniature TV camera, the surgeon can see more than making a large incision during surgery. Then the doctor can figure out what kind of correction or repair needs to be made. 

Some of the most frequent conditions found during arthroscopic examinations of joints are:


  • Synovitis - inflamed lining (synovium) in knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or ankle.
  • Injury - acute and chronic
  • Shoulder - rotator cuff tendon tears, impingement syndrome, and recurrent dislocations
  • Knee - meniscal (cartilage) tears, chondromalacia (wearing or injury of cartilage cushion), and anterior cruciate ligament tears with instability
  • Wrist - carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Loose bodies of bone and/or cartilage - knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, or wrist​ ​

Although the inside of nearly all joints can be viewed with an arthroscope, six joints are most frequently examined with this instrument. These include the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, hip, and wrist. As advances are made by engineers in electronic technology and new techniques are developed by orthopaedic surgeons, other joints may be treated more frequently in the future.

How is arthroscopy performed?

You'll be given a general, spinal or a local anesthetic, depending on the joint or the problem.

A small incision (about the size of a buttonhole) will be made to insert the arthroscope. Several other incisions may be made to see other parts of the joint or to insert other instruments.  When it's needed, corrective surgery is performed with specially-designed instruments that are inserted into the joint through additional incisions. 

Some problems associated with arthritis also can be treated. Several disorders are treated with a combination of arthroscopic and standard surgery.

  • Rotator cuff procedure
  • Repair or resection of torn cartilage (meniscus) from knee or shoulder
  • Reconstruction of anterior cruciate ligament in knee
  • Removal of inflamed lining (synovium) in knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, ankle
  • Release of carpal tunnel
  • Repair of torn ligaments
  • Removal of loose bone or cartilage in knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, wrist

After arthroscopic surgery, the small incisions will be covered with a dressing. You will be moved from the operating room to a recovery room. Many patients need little or no pain medications.

Before being discharged, you will be given instructions about care for your incisions, what activities you should avoid, and which exercises you should do to help your recovery. During the follow-up visit, the surgeon will inspect your incisions, remove any sutures and discuss your rehab program. ​