Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure during which the internal structure of a joint is examined for diagnosis and treatment of problems inside the joint. In arthroscopic examination, a small incision is made in the patient's skin through which pencil-sized instruments that have a small lens and lighting system (arthroscope) are passed. Arthroscope magnifies and illuminates the structures of the joint with the light that is transmitted through fibre optics. It is attached to a television camera and the interior of the joint is seen on the television monitor.
Arthroscopic examination of joints is helpful in diagnosis and treatment of the following conditions:
- Inflammation: Synovitis, the inflammation of the lining of the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or ankle
- Acute or chronic injury: Injuries to the shoulder, knee and wrist joint such as cartilage tears, tendon tears, carpal tunnel syndrome
- Osteoarthritis: A type of arthritis caused by cartilage loss in a joint
- Removal of loose bodies of bone or cartilage that becomes logged within the joint
During arthroscopic surgery, either a general, spinal or local anaesthesia will be given depending on the condition. A small incision of the size of a buttonhole is made through which the arthroscope is inserted. Other accessory incisions will be made through which specially designed instruments are inserted. After the procedure is completed arthroscope is removed and incisions are closed. You may be instructed about the incision care, activities to be avoided and exercises to be performed for faster recovery.
Some of the possible complications after arthroscopy include infection, phlebitis (clotting of blood in vein), excessive swelling, bleeding, blood vessel or nerve damage and instrument breakage.
It typically takes 1-2 weeks for the small incision portal sites to heal and around 6 weeks for the joint to recover completely. A rehabilitation programme may be advised for a speedy recovery of normal joint function typically after 2 weeks but is not always necessary. You can gradually start to resume normal activities after 2 weeks. Rest, elevation and gentle range of movement exercises are advised in the first 2 weeks.