The name arthroscopic surgery is derived from the Greek words, "arthro" (joint) and "skopein" (to look). Arthroscopy literally means "to look inside a joint." Arthroscopic surgery is the procedure orthopedic surgeons use to see inside the body's joints without the need for large incisions.
In an arthroscopic procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision, about the size of a buttonhole in a shirt, in the skin surrounding the joint. Instruments the diameter of a pencil are then inserted through the small incision and inside the joint. These instruments contain a small magnifying lens and fiber optic light to allow the surgeon to see the structures inside the joint.
Using a small camera, the surgeon is able to see the interior of the joint to determine the type and severity of injury. In many cases, the surgeon may repair the problem at that time.
Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure, this means recovery if faster and less painful than "open" surgery. However, arthroscopic surgery still requires the use of anesthetics in a hospital operating room or outpatient surgical setting. Following the arthroscopic procedure, the small incisions will be closed and dressed with a bandage.
While virtually any joint can be viewed with an arthroscope, the most commonly examined are the ankle, knee, hip, elbow, wrist and shoulder.