Arthroscopy

For many patients who need surgical treatment of a joint, arthroscopy is a minimally invasive option. This page goes over the basics of arthroscopic procedures such as those performed at the North Texas Medical Center.

Overview of Arthroscopic Procedures

The key ingredient in arthroscopic surgery is a surgical tool known as the arthroscope. This is a type of endoscope. Endoscopes are tubular, skinny instruments with cameras that can enter the body without as much disruption as other tools. During an arthroscopy, the surgeon inserts the arthroscope into the joint via a tiny incision. The surgeon is able to view what they are doing inside the joint on a video monitor.

Which Parts of the Body Can Arthroscopic Surgery Benefit?

Surgeons can use an arthroscopy for the diagnosis and repair of myriad problems. Commonly, these procedures serve to treat damage in areas such as the wrist, ankle, elbow, hip, knee, and shoulder (though it is possible to examine other joints as well).

Specifically, an arthroscopy may target and remove bone fragments or scar tissue in a joint. It can also repair joint linings, damaged cartilage, and torn ligaments.

How Long Does Arthroscopic Surgery Take to Perform?

The length of time a procedure takes depends on a variety of factors. However, there are general timeframes for most procedures. For example, an arthroscopy performed on the knee typically takes about 30 minutes. More extensive procedures can take 45 minutes.

Patients receive general anesthesia, meaning they feel virtually nothing during the procedure. If you undergo an arthroscopy, your doctor will provide more details about what to expect.

How Long Does It Take to Recover from an Arthroscopy?

As is the case with the procedure itself, recovery time will vary. It is likely that for several days, you will experience fatigue as well as swelling around the site of the surgery. Recovery generally takes six weeks, but it may take longer if the surgeon repairs tissue. You may need to limit your activity levels and/or take part in a physical therapy to regain movement.

If you work at a desk, you may be able to return to work in less than a week, but if your job is physical in nature, up to two months may be needed. Again, your doctor will provide details on what to expect and how to have a successful recovery.