“Arthroscopy” comes from the Greek words “arthro” (joint) and “skopein” (to look), thus the meaning “to look within the joint.” But today arthroscopic surgery goes far beyond just looking.
Minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery has become one of the most effective techniques to not just diagnose but to also resolve orthopedic problems in the knee, shoulder, ankle, elbow or wrist – joints where damaged bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles, or tendons are commonly found due to disease or injury.
The process usually begins with a physical examination of the joint along with diagnostic X-ray and/or MRI imaging to provide the physician with additional detail regarding the joint structure and potential problem issues. The next step is where arthroscopic diagnosis comes into play. In this examination, the orthopedic surgeon makes a small incision in the skin then inserts pencil-sized instruments that contain a small lens and lighting system to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint. The image is displayed on a television screen, allowing the surgeon to look throughout the joint and determine the nature and severity of the injury.
Back in the day, that would have been the end of arthroscopic’s role in the process and, assuming the condition was severe enough, the patient would need to undergo large incision “open” surgery. But today, thanks to the miniaturization of certain surgical instruments that are tiny enough to be inserted through such small incisions, many joint problems that have been diagnosed through arthroscopy can actually be repaired during the same procedure. And because the procedure is much less traumatic to the patient than open surgery, most surgeries can be done on an outpatient basis, and the patient can go home just a few hours after surgery.