Arthroscopy, or arthroscopic surgery, is a minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose or treat joint damage. Often, the operating surgeon will diagnose or treat the joint injury using an arthroscope, or a specialized endoscope designed to be inserted into a joint through a small incision. The arthroscope transmits light throughout the joint and sends the image back to an attached video screen so that the surgeon can see inside the joint without the need for a larger incision, as is typical in other surgeries.
Originally, arthroscopy was only a diagnostic tool, but recent advances in technique and surgical instruments have allowed it to be a viable means of treatment as well. Using small, specialized tools inserted with the arthroscope or through other small incisions around the targeted joint, surgeons can treat many cases of cartilage, tendon and muscle injuries or deformities. Arthroscopic surgeries generally cause less damage to surrounding tissues, less scarring, thereby promoting a faster healing time in many cases. While nearly any joint can be treated with this procedure, the most common areas treated with arthroscopy are the hip, knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist and ankle. And while arthroscopy can treat many areas and conditions, some cases may still require open surgery – it is not uncommon for an arthroscopy-aided diagnosis to provide details to the surgeon that indicates a full open surgery is necessary.