Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure that orthopaedic surgeons use to visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint. In an arthroscopic examination, an orthopaedic surgeon makes a small incision in the patient's skin and then inserts pencil-sized instruments that contain a small lens and lighting system to magnify and brighten the structures inside the joint. Light is transmitted through fiber optics to the end of the arthroscope that is inserted into the joint. By attaching the arthroscope to a miniature television camera, the surgeon is able to see the interior of the joint through this very small incision rather than a large incision needed for surgery. Although the inside of nearly all joints can be viewed with an arthroscope, six joints are most frequently examined with this instrument. These include the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, hip, and wrist. As advances are made in fiber-optic technology and new techniques are developed by orthopaedic surgeons, other joints may be treated more frequently in the future. Arthroscopic surgery, although much easier in terms of recovery than ""open"" surgery, still requires the use of anesthetics and the special equipment in a hospital operating room or outpatient surgical suite.
The small puncture wounds take several days to heal. The operative dressing can usually be removed the morning after surgery and adhesive strips can be applied to cover the small healing incisions. Although the puncture wounds are small and pain in the joint that underwent arthroscopy is minimal, it takes several weeks for the joint to maximally recover. A specific activity and rehabilitation program may be suggested to speed your recover and protect future joint function.
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