What is it?
Arthroscopy is a procedure in which a doctor examines the inside of a joint with an instrument called an arthroscope. An arthroscope is a tube with a light on the end that is inserted into the joint and projects an image of the inside of the joint onto a TV monitor. The arthroscope is about the diameter of a pencil.
What is the purpose?This procedure is used to view the interior of a joint, usually the knee, but also shoulder, ankle or elbow. This may be helpful in pinpointing the cause of joint pain or inflammation. It may also be used to remove loose pieces of cartilage that may be irritating the joint. Small tears in ligaments can also be repaired using the arthroscope. Pieces of tissue may be taken for biopsy.
Is there any special preparation?
You may be asked to fast for a few hours prior to the procedure. You will be expected to put on a hospital gown. A sedative may be given before the arthroscopy is started.
How is it done?
An IV is usually started. The doctor will give you a general, regional, or local anesthetic. A small incision is made into the skin over the joint and the arthroscope is inserted. Other tools may be inserted into the joint via the arthroscope to grab any floating pieces of cartilage and bone. A saltwater solution may be used to flush the joint. The arthroscope is then removed. The doctor will close the incision with a couple of stitches or small pieces of tape.
What happens afterwards?
You will remain at the clinic or hospital until the anesthesia and/or sedation wears off. Follow all instruction given. Ask your doctor when you can resume full activity. Your recovery time will depend on what was done. The dressing should be kept clean and dry.
What are the risks of this procedure?
There are always risks associated with general anesthesia. As with any invasive procedure there is a risk of infection and bleeding. Nerve damage can occur around the incision
Does it hurt?
Due to anesthesia there should be no pain felt during the procedure. The joint will be sore and tender for several days. A prescription for pain medication is usually given.
Yale University School of Medicine, Patient’s Guide to Medical Tests
Adult Health Advisor -Arthrocentesis, Copyright ? Clinical Reference Systems 1999