Arthroscopic surgery is used to identify, monitor, and diagnose joint injuries and disease; or to remove bone or cartilage or repair tendons or ligaments.
In arthroscopic surgery, an orthopedic surgeon uses an arthroscope, a fiber-optic instrument, to see the inside of a joint. After making an incision about the size of a buttonhole in the patient's skin, a sterile sodium chloride solution is injected to distend the joint. The arthroscope, an instrument the size of a pencil, is then inserted into the joint. The arthroscope has a lens and a lighting system through which the structures inside the joint are transmitted to a miniature television camera attached to the end of the arthroscope. The surgeon uses irrigation and suction to remove blood and debris from the joint before examining it. Other incisions may be made in order to see other parts of the joint or to insert additional instruments. Looking at the interior of the joint on the television screen, the surgeon can then determine the amount or type of injury and, if necessary, take a biopsy specimen or repair or correct the problem. Arthroscopic surgery can be used to remove floating bits of cartilage and treat minor tears and other disorders. When the procedure is finished, the arthroscope is removed and the joint is irrigated. The site of the incision is bandaged.