What is Arthroscopic Surgery?

Arthroscopic surgery, also known as arthroscopy, is a surgical procedure to visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint using a specialized instrument known as an arthroscope.

An arthroscope is a fibreoptic tube that contains a small lens or camera and a lighting system to magnify and illuminate structures inside a joint. The camera attached to the arthroscope shows an image of the joint on a television screen allowing the surgeon to examine the affected joint or areas such as cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, and perform the repair.

Arthroscopic Surgery Procedure

The surgery is performed under general anaesthesia. After adequately sterilizing the surgical area, your surgeon makes a few small keyhole incisions through which the arthroscope and tiny specialized instruments are inserted. The joints are irrigated with water to clear debris and improve visibility. The camera attached to the tip of the arthroscope allows the doctor to view the structures inside the joint through a television screen, and the damaged structures are repaired. The instruments and arthroscope are then withdrawn, and the surgical incisions are closed with sterile dressings or sutures.

Postoperative Care of Arthroscopic Surgery

Before being discharged, your doctor or nurse will give you appropriate postop instructions, such as:

  • How to care for your incisions and dressing
  • Exercises you should do
  • What activities you must avoid
  • Use of assistive devices like a sling or splint
  • Use of pain medications
  • Rehabilitation program for a quicker recovery
  • Follow-up visit to remove dressings or sutures and monitor your overall progress

Risks and Complications of Arthroscopic Surgery

The risks and complications of an arthroscopic procedure are minimal and occur in less than one percent of all arthroscopic surgeries. Some of the possible risks and complications of arthroscopic surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Swelling or bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels
  • Instrument breakage
  • Anaesthetic problems

Benefits of Arthroscopic Surgery Over Traditional Open Surgery

Some of the benefits of arthroscopic surgery over traditional open surgery include:

  • Can sometimes be carried out as an outpatient procedure
  • Swelling is reduced due to minimal incisions
  • Pain is reduced due to minimal manipulation of healthy tissue
  • Risk of infection is less due to the minimally invasive approach
  • Risk of complications associated with blood loss is notably minimal
  • Shorter hospital stay and recovery time
  • Minimal incisional scarring
  • Reduced surgical risk as arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure
  • Both diagnosis and surgery can be carried out in one approach
  • Use of tiny instruments in arthroscopy aids in minimal damage to surrounding tissues compared to large-sized surgical devices