Arthroscopy: What is it?
Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure in which a small fiberoptic telescope (arthroscope) is inserted into a joint. Fluid is then inserted into the joint to distend the joint and to allow for the visualization of the structures within that joint. Usually the surgery is viewed on a moniter so that the whole operating team is aware of the type of surgical procedure that is being performed.
Arthroscopes are approximately 5 mm in diameter, so the incisions are very small (approximately 1/8 inch). During the procedure, which is conducted under anesthesia, the inside of the joint is examined for damaged tissue. The most common types of arthroscopic surgery include removal or repair of a torn meniscus (cartilage), ligament reconstruction, removal of loose debris, and trimming damaged cartilage.
Arthroscopy is much less traumatic to the muscles, ligaments, and tissues than the traditional method of surgically opening the knee with long incisions (arthrotomy). The benefits of arthroscopy involve smaller incisions, faster healing, a more rapid recovery, and less scarring. Arthroscopic surgical procedures are often performed on an outpatient basis and the patient is able to return home on the same day.
While an arthroscope is used in many different types of surgical procedures, the recovery time and outcome of the procedure is related to the type of injury and the type of arthroscopic surgical procedure performed. For example, an arthroscopic surgical ligament reconstruction will take longer to heal and the recovery time will be longer then the patient who has an arthroscopic removal of a loose body.