Arthroscopic surgery (or arthroscopy) is a procedure that allows your doctor to look inside one of your joints through a small incision, rather than making the larger incision that would be needed for open surgery.

Arthroscopic surgeons use an arthroscope, a pencil-sized viewing instrument that uses a small lens and light to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint. The arthroscope is attached to a fiber-optic cable linked to a miniature television camera that lets the surgeon view the interior of the joint using a closed-circuit television system with a high resolution monitor.

Arthroscopic surgery is an advanced technique that is often less painful and less costly than traditional surgery. Talk to your surgeon to see if it might be right for you.

During arthroscopic surgery your doctor can examine joint surfaces as well as the surrounding soft tissue, including ligaments (tissue that connects bone to bone) and cartilage (tissue that covers the ends of bones).

Arthroscopic surgery is used for multiple purposes:

  • Diagnose a problem
  • Repair a joint with specially designed instruments
  • Remove bone or cartilage fragments
  • Remove calcium deposits or bone spurs
  • Monitor a disease or evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment
  • Arthroscopy is most often performed on the knee, shoulder, ankle, hip, elbow, or wrist.

Compared to open surgery, arthroscopy:

  • Usually less painful
  • Usually less costly
  • Usually allows for a quicker recovery time
  • Can be done on an outpatient basis without requiring an overnight stay in a hospital