More About Arthroscopy

By J. Michael Watt, MD
As discussed, arthroscopy or arthroscopic surgery refers to a surgical procedure that utilizes a small fiberoptic scope and camera system that allows the surgeon to visualize the inside of joints through small incisions. (Small fiberoptic lenses are also used in procedures to look into the natural body openings and body cavities. These are called endoscopic and laparoscopic procedures. Examples would be colonoscopy and abdominal laparoscopy.)

Below you’ll see a typical knee arthroscopy set-up.

Knee Arthroscopy

And here’s an intraoperative view of a knee arthroscopy.

Knee Arthroscopy

And below is a typical shoulder arthroscopy set-up.

Shoulder Arthroscopy

Background of Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy has been around since the early 1900’s. It was originally used primarily to diagnose problems within joints that were then treated by opening the joint through a much larger incision. The real advance in arthroscopic surgery in recent years has been the development of techniques utilizing small instruments that are also placed into the joint through an additional small incision or incisions to repair or reconstruct the damaged structures. These techniques have dramatically replaced the need for open surgery.

Arthroscopy is now used much more for joint repairs and less for diagnosis because of improved examinations and imaging techniques such as MRI. Today most knee and shoulder conditions that don’t require joint replacement can be performed using the arthroscope.

Advantages of Arthroscopy

There are many advantages to arthroscopy. Smaller incisions mean less tissue damage, quicker recoveries, and lower risks. Also, arthroscopy tends to make it easier to visualize joints because it allows the surgeon to magnify the image, to see into small recesses, and to see around corners using angled lenses. Most arthroscopies can be conveniently done in an outpatient surgery center.

Additional benefits include less pain and lower infection rates compared to open surgery. Arthroscopy can be used in surgeries involving all of the joints. All of the surgeons at Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle routinely use arthroscopy in the treatment of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle issues.