Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure that orthopaedic surgeons use to visualize and treat problems inside a joint.
The word arthroscopy comes from two Greek words, "arthro" (joint) and "skopein" (to look). The term literally means "to look within the joint."
In arthroscopic surgery, an orthopaedic surgeon makes a small incision in the patient's skin, then inserts pencil-sized instruments that contain a small lens and lighting system to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint. Light is transmitted through fiber optics to the end of the arthroscope that is inserted into the joint.
The camera attached to the arthroscope displays the image of the joint on a video monitor, allowing the surgeon to look, for example, throughout the knee. This lets the surgeon see the cartilage, ligaments, and under the kneecap. The surgeon can determine the amount or type of injury and then repair or correct the problem, if it is necessary.
When is arthroscopy used? Your bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles, and tendons can all be damaged by disease and injury. To diagnose your condition, your doctor will take a thorough medical history, perform a physical examination and order imaging studies — usually x-rays. For some conditions, an additional imaging study — such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computerized tomography (CT) scan — may also be needed. After making a diagnosis, your doctor will determine the most appropriate treatment choice for your condition.