Full Circle Orthopedics



Arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive procedure that helps doctors diagnose and treat joint problems. They often use arthroscopy when x-rays and other types of imaging do not provide enough information.

What is Arthroscopy?

Doctors perform the procedure by inserting a thin, narrow tube attached to a fiber optic video camera, into a small incision that is about the size of a buttonhole. The device, known as an arthroscope, captures detailed images and displays them on a high-definition video monitor. Your surgeon can also use small, pencil-thin tools attached to the arthroscope to repair or remove damaged tissue.

arthroscopy working out

Where Is Arthroscopy Used?

Arthroscopy may be used on any joint, including:

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

Doctors use arthroscopy to diagnose and treat a number of conditions, such as:

  • Torn or otherwise damaged cartilage
  • Loose bone fragments
  • Torn ligaments
  • Inflamed joint linings
  • Scarring within your joints
  • Impingement syndrome, a condition in which the tendons of the shoulder’s rotator cuff are pinched

What Should I Expect During the Procedure?

Arthroscopy is usually performed as outpatient surgery, either in an outpatient surgery facility or a hospital, so no hospital stay is required.

Your experience may vary according to the reason for the procedure and the joint involved, but you can expect certain things to happen during an arthroscopy. You will need to change into a hospital gown, for example, and a nurse will likely insert an intravenous (IV) into your arm or hand and inject a mild sedative.

You will receive anesthesia to reduce any pain your discomfort during the procedure. Depending on the type of procedure you are having you will receive one of the following types of anesthesia:

  • Local anesthesia – injected just below the skin, these numbing agents block sensation in a limited area; you will be awake during your procedure, but you only feel pressure or the sensation of movement within the joint
  • Regional anesthesia – delivered through a small needle placed between two bones of your spine, this form of anesthesia numbs the bottom half of your body; you will remain awake
  • General anesthesia – delivered through your IV, this type of anesthesia puts you in a deep sleep; doctors sometimes recommend general anesthesia for lengthy procedures

The surgical team will place you in the best position for your procedure, usually on your back or on your side. The team will place the limb being worked on in a positioning device. They may apply a tourniquet to decrease blood loss and enhance the visibility of the area during your arthroscopy. They may also improve visibility by filling the joint with a sterile fluid that expands the area around the joint.

The surgeon will make a small incision in your skin, just above the joint. This incision is large enough to accommodate the arthroscope, but small enough to close with adhesive tape, or one or two small stitches. Surgeons may make other small incisions near the joint, which allow them to insert tools that grasp, grind, cut, or provide suction, without removing the viewing device.

Arthroscopy does not usually take very long. Arthroscopy of your knee will take less than an hour, for example, depending on the extent of the damage and the amount of surgical repair it requires.

Steps to Take after Arthroscopic Surgery

Following your arthroscopic surgery, your healthcare team will monitor your vital signs and overall condition for a short time before you go home. You will receive aftercare instructions that may include:

  • Medications to relieve pain
  • Instructions to ice and elevate the joint
  • Slings or crutches to protect and support the joint
  • Physical therapy may also be recommended to help strengthen and improve joint function

Recovering from Arthroscopy

Recovery from arthroscopy can take as little as a week, but depending on the specific joint affected and the type of surgical work done, can take a couple of months. You may benefit from having someone help you at home for short time following arthroscopy. Compared with other traditional types of surgery, arthroscopic surgery often offers a much faster recovery time.

While everyone’s recovery is different, you should be able to resume light activity and desk work within a few days of your arthroscopic procedure. You may be able to drive again in one to three weeks, and engage in more strenuous activities in the following weeks.

Your surgeon will review the findings of your arthroscopy and share the result with you as soon as possible. The surgeon will also monitor your overall recovery and progress in follow-up visits, and address any questions, concerns, or issues you may have.

For more information about arthroscopy, consult with the orthopedic specialists at Full Circle Orthopedics.

Arthroscopy FAQs

When is Hip Arthroscopy Recommended?

Your doctor may recommend hip arthroscopy when you have a diagnosis of a torn labrum, loose bodies or impingement syndrome. Such treatment includes rest, physical therapy, and medications or injections to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s normal reactions to injury or disease. In an injured or diseased hip joint, inflammation causes swelling, pain, and stiffness. This procedure may relieve painful symptoms of many problems that damage the labrum, articular cartilage, or other soft tissues surrounding the joint.

When is a Shoulder Arthroscopy Helpful?

Thanks to recent advances in arthroscopy, many shoulder problems can be corrected using the same techniques that revolutionized the treatment of knee problems. Arthroscopic shoulder procedures require just a few small incisions and is often done as an outpatient procedure. This procedure allows the surgeons to see and work inside the shoulder joint.

Where is Shoulder Arthroscopy Performed?

Shoulder arthroscopies can often be done as outpatient procedures, either in an outpatient surgery facility or a hospital. For most joints, the average arthroscopic procedure takes less than one hour. Recovery time can range from one week to a number of months, depending on the extent of the procedure.

What will my Knee Recovery be Like?

Recovery from this procedure is much faster than recovery from traditional open knee surgery. Still, it is important to follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions carefully after you return home. You should ask someone to check on you the first evening you are home.

Problems that can be treated through arthroscopy include:

  • Impingement syndrome
  • Irritated rotator cuff
  • Torn Cartilage
  • Unstable Joint

Make An Appointment Today!

The Florida Knee and Orthopedic Centers, established in 1983, has a national reputation for excellence in orthopedic innovations and state-of-the-art surgery. Our expert team of orthopedic surgeons treat patients at two locations in the Tampa Bay area. The Florida Knee and Orthopedic Centers is a multi-site group orthopedic surgical practice specializing in kneehip and shoulder problems with an emphasis on joint resurfacing (replacement) and arthroscopy.

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