Arthroscopy is a surgical technique where a surgeon uses a small scope to look into a joint. “Arthro-” means joint, thus the term “arthroscopy”. It is commonly used as a technique to perform surgery on the knee and shoulder and some other joints. The benefit is that a larger incision is not necessary so the patient can recover more quickly since there is less healing required. Also the scope can allow the surgeon to see into small areas that otherwise would be hard to visualize. Small instruments have been developed so surgeons can not only see problems in a joint but can often correct them.
The knee was the first joint where arthroscopy was utilized extensively. For knee arthroscopy there are typically three small incisions (less than ½”). One incision or “portal” is for fluid which can inflate the joint so there is room to move about. One is for the scope and one is for an instrument. Typical problems that are addressed by arthroscopy are tears of the meniscus, removal of loose pieces of cartilage or smoothing rough areas of the cartilage surface of the joint. Arthroscopy is helpful is ACL reconstruction to remove the damaged ligament and aid placement of the new ligament. There are actually many things (but not all) that arthroscopy can accomplish in caring for knee problems. The recovery can be improved because of arthroscopic techniques.