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Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure doctors use to look at, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint. Doctor may recommend it if you have inflammation in a joint, have injured a joint, or have damaged a joint over time. You can have arthroscopy on any joint. Most often, it’s done on the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, hip, or wrist.

During the procedure, the doctor will insert a tool called an arthroscope into your joint through several small cuts to see how much damage is in the joint. They can also repair many injuries during arthroscopy.

What Happens During the Procedure ?

Your doctor will perform arthroscopic surgery in a hospital or outpatient operating room. The type of anesthesia you’ll receive depends on the joint and what your surgeon suspects is the problem. It may be general anesthesia (you’ll be asleep during surgery), or your doctor will give it to you through your spine. They might also numb the area they are doing the surgery on.

Your doctor will insert special pencil-thin instruments through a small cut (incision) the size of a buttonhole. The arthroscope tool they use has a camera lens and a light. It allows them to see inside the joint. The camera projects an image of the joint onto a screen. The surgeon will fill the joint with sterile fluid to widen it so it’s easier to see.

They’ll look inside the joint, diagnose the problem, and decide what type of surgery you need, if any. If you do need surgery, your surgeon will insert special tools through other small incisions called portals. They’ll use them to cut, shave, grasp, and anchor stitches into bone.

If your surgeon decides you need traditional, “open” surgery to fix the problem, they may do it at the same time as your arthroscopic surgery.

Afterward, they’ll remove the arthroscope and any attachments. They’ll close the wound with special tape or stitches.

What About Recovery ?

Arthroscopic surgery usually results in less joint pain and stiffness than open surgery. Recovery also generally takes less time. When the arthroscopy is over, you'll be taken to a recovery room where you'll rest for about an hour or more. You may have some pain in the joint after surgery. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication and exercise. They might also prescribe aspirin or other medication to prevent blood clots.

Apply ice for the first 24 hours to reduce swelling. If you've had arthroscopy on your knee, elevate the leg to reduce pain. Take pain medicines as prescribed, and do not drink alcohol. You may need crutches, a splint, or a sling for support as you recover. Rehabilitation or specific exercises can help speed your recovery. Your doctor will tell you which ones are safe to do.