Arthroscopy is a common surgical procedure in which a joint (arthro-) is viewed (-scopy) using a small camera. Arthroscopy gives doctors a clear view of the inside of the knee. This helps them diagnose and treat knee problems.
Technical advances have led to high definition monitors and high resolution cameras. These and other improvements have made arthroscopy a very effective tool for treating knee problems. According to the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, more than 4 million knee arthroscopies are performed worldwide each year.
Arthroscopy is done through small incisions. During the procedure, your orthopedic surgeon inserts the arthroscope (a small camera instrument about the size of a pencil) into your knee joint. The arthroscope sends the image to a television monitor. On the monitor, your surgeon can see the structures of the knee in great detail.
Your surgeon can use arthroscopy to feel, repair or remove damaged tissue. To do this, small surgical instruments are inserted through other incisions around your knee.
Your surgeon’s first task is to properly diagnose your problem. He or she will insert the arthroscope and use the image projected on the screen to guide it. If surgical treatment is needed, your surgeon will insert tiny instruments through another small incision. These instruments might be scissors, motorized shavers, or lasers.
This part of the procedure usually lasts 30 minutes to over an hour. How long it takes depends upon the findings and the treatment necessary.
Arthroscopy for the knee is most commonly used for:
- Removal or repair of torn meniscal cartilage.
- Reconstruction of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
- Trimming of torn pieces of articular cartilage.
- Removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage.
- Removal of inflamed synovial tissue.
Your surgeon may close your incisions with a stitch or steri-strips (small bandaids) and cover them with a soft bandage.
You will be moved to the recovery room and should be able to go home within 1 or 2 hours. Be sure to have someone with you to drive you home.