Arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure performed on joints. During the procedure, a surgeon makes two or more very small incisions and uses pencil-thin instruments--including a scope-mounted camera--to see inside the joint to make a repair or remove loose tissue. In contrast, conventional surgery uses a single large incision and visual inspection. The camera sends a video feed to a monitor to allow the surgeon to fully diagnose the condition and to watch his work. Arthroscopy is sometimes used to diagnose joint injuries but is most often used as an alternative to conventional surgery in cases of joint injuries or disease. It allows a doctors to diagnose conditions more accurately and treat the issue with less disruption to the patient’s daily life.

Arthroscopic procedures are most often performed on the shoulder and knee, although the technique is suitable for any joint in the body. A variety of conditions can be treated with arthroscopic surgery, such as rotator cuff tears, carpal tunnel meniscal tears, and the removal of loose pieces of bone or cartilage. This list grows as technology advances. Some of the most common conditions suitable for arthroscopic treatment include rotator cuff injuries, ACL injuries, hip labral injuries, and other tendon or ligament injuries. Arthroscopy is also often used to treat frozen shoulder or remove bone spurs.

What are the benefits of an arthroscopic procedure?

Unlike traditional “open” surgery in which the joint is exposed through a large incision, arthroscopy uses the smallest incision possible. The incisions used are so small, usually around a half inch, resulting in less trauma to the tissues, less blood loss, less pain, and quicker recovery time. For instance, patients undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery for meniscus repair or meniscectomy are often at home on the same day and back on their feet and able to perform everyday activities within 48 hours.

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