Arthroscopy (Arthroscopic or Keyhole Surgery)

What is arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a surgical technique for diagnosing and treating joint problems. Your surgeon will make a small incision before inserting a narrow tube (less than 5 millimetres) attached to a video camera. This allows them to view the damage in your joints that need to be repaired.

If treatment via arthroscopy is an option for you, your surgeon will make additional small incisions around the affected joint. Using small, thin surgical instruments that they insert through these incisions, they will proceed to repair the damage without having to make traditional, large incisions.

Compared to open surgery, arthroscopy:

  • Feels less painful
  • Has a shorter recovery time
  • Is less invasive
  • Leaves minimal scarring

Why do you need an arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy helps your doctor diagnose and treat joint conditions that affect the:

  • Ankle
  • Elbow
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Shoulder
  • Wrist

The types of conditions and injuries that arthroscopy can fix include:

  • Arthritis
  • Damaged or torn cartilage
  • Inflammation at your joint linings
  • Loose bone fragments
  • Scarring in your joints
  • Torn ligaments
  • Torn meniscus
  • Torn shoulder or hip labrum

Who should not undergo an arthroscopy?

There is medical research showing that individuals with advanced arthritis will not benefit much from a knee arthroscopy, and may need a knee replacement instead.

Your surgeon will discuss with you if they find that open surgery or other types of joint treatments would be better for you.

What are the risks and complications of arthroscopy?

In general, arthroscopy is a low risk procedure. Potential complications may include:

  • Blood clots in the veins, although this is rare.
  • Damage to your tissues or nerves, which may be caused by the placement and movement of the arthroscopic instruments inside your joint.
  • Infection, which is a standard complication of all surgeries.
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