Arthroscopy is a procedure to look inside a joint by using an arthroscope. An arthroscope is like a thin telescope with a light source. It is used to light up and magnify the structures inside a joint. An arthroscope is passed through a small cut in the skin and into a joint.
At Imperial Hospital, we perform arthroscopy to investigate symptoms such as pain, swelling, or instability of a joint. Arthroscopy may show damage to cartilage or ligaments within a joint, fragments of bone or cartilage which have broken off (‘loose bodies’), or signs of arthritis. In addition to simply looking inside, our doctors at Imperial Hospital may use fine instruments that are also passed into the joint through a small incision in the skin (‘keyhole surgery’). These instruments are used to cut, trim, biopsy, grab, etc, inside the joint.
Treatments & Procedures
Arthroscopy and arthroscopic surgery may be done under local or general anaesthesia. The type of anaesthesia chosen depends on the joint being examined, and various other considerations. The skin over the joint will be cleaned. You will be asked to adopt a position best suited for the procedure. For example, you may need to lie on your back with your knee bent for knee procedures, or lie on your side for shoulder procedures, etc. For arthroscopy of the knee a tourniquet (pressure band) may be put round the upper part of the leg to restrict blood flow.
The surgeon makes a small incision (cut) next to the joint – just a few millimetres long. The arthroscope is pushed through the incision into the joint. An arthroscope used for the knee joint is about the width of a pencil. A thinner one is used for smaller joints such as the wrist and ankle. One or more separate incisions are made to push a thin examining probe into the joint, or fine instruments which are used for surgery, or fluid to make viewing easier and to flush out the joint.
Some of the most frequent arthroscopic surgical procedures include:
- Rotator cuff surgery
- Repair or resection of torn cartilage (meniscus) from knee or shoulder
- Reconstruction of anterior cruciate ligament in knee
- Removal of inflamed lining (synovium) in knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, ankle
- Release of carpal tunnel
- Repair of torn ligaments
- Removal of loose bone or cartilage in knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, wrist