An arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery usedboth to diagnose and treat problems with joints.

It's most commonly used on the knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hips.

An arthroscopyinvolves the use of a device called anarthroscope to examine the joints. This is a thin,metal tube about the length and width of a drinking straw that contains a light source and a camera. Images are sent from the arthroscope to a video screen or an eyepiece, so the surgeon is able to see inside the joint.

It's also possible for tiny surgical instruments to be used alongside an arthroscopeto allow the surgeon to treatcertain joint conditions.

As the equipment used during an arthroscopy is so small, onlyminor cuts need to be made in the skin. This means the procedure has some potential advantages over traditional, "open" surgery, including:

  • less pain after the operation
  • faster healing time
  • lowerrisk of infection
  • you can often go home the same day
  • you may be able to return to normal activities more quickly

Why it's used

An arthroscopy might be recommended if you have problems such as persistent Joint pain , swelling or stiffness, and scans have not been able to identify the cause.

An arthroscopy can also be used to treat a range of joint problems and conditions. For example, it can be used to:

  • repair damaged cartilage
  • remove fragments of loose bone or cartilage
  • drain away any excess fluid
  • treatconditions such as arthritis , frozen shoulder or carpal tunnel syndrome

These will usuallyimprove during thedays or weeks following the procedure.

More seriousproblems are much less common, occurring in less than 1 in100 cases. They include:

  • a blood clot that develops in one of the limbs this is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and it cancause pain and swelling in the affected limb
  • infection inside the joint this is known as septic arthritis and it can cause a high temperature (fever), pain and swelling in the joint
  • bleeding inside the joint which often causes severe pain and swelling
  • accidental damage to the nerves that arenear the joint this can lead to numbness and some loss of sensation, which may be temporary or permanent

Speak to your surgeon about the possible risks before agreeing to have an arthroscopy.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 5 Jun 2015