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When are Arthroscopies Performed? – Apollo Hospitals Blog

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Arthroscopy is a procedure done to evaluate and treat joint problems. It is a surgical technique performed by an orthopedic surgeon. In the procedure, a small incision is made through which a narrow tube is inserted with a tiny camera attached at the end to view the joint on the screen.

About the subject

Arthroscopy allows the surgeon to investigate the problem going on with the joint thoroughly. If the surgeon finds that the problem is less severe, he/she can treat the issue through the arthroscope by using a small instrument. Arthroscopy helps the surgeons to diagnose several joint problems, like a torn meniscus, infection, blood clots in arteries or veins, inflammation, excessive bleeding, joint breakage, damage to nerves and blood vessels, or a misaligned patella.

The different types of arthroscopic procedures done on various joints are:

  • Shoulder arthroscopy
  • Elbow arthroscopy
  • Wrist arthroscopy
  • Hip arthroscopy
  • Knee arthroscopy
  • Ankle arthroscopy

Why is there a need for an arthroscopic procedure?

There can be several reasons for joint injuries and diseases, and for their diagnosis, doctors initially ask for the full medical history of the patient. Based on the type of joint, a physical examination is done. The first step towards the physical examination is an X-ray to rule out a fracture. Depending on the severity observed in the X-ray, imaging tests like MRI and CT scans are done. Then, the patient may be taken for the arthroscopic procedure, where the final diagnosis is made using an arthroscope. Arthroscopy can produce the thorough results that are not possible with X-ray.

The possible issues that are found through the arthroscopic procedure are:


Sometimes there is the possibility of fluid build-up in the tissues around the joints, which leads to inflammation of the joints. It can be because of injury, infection, or arthritis.


The types of injuries that can affect your wrists, hips, knees, shoulders, and ankle joints can be distinguished as:

  • Strains: muscle or tendon strains occur when the joints are overextended
  • Sprains:  injuries to the ligaments
  • Fractures: breakage, cracks, or any other injuries to the bones
  • Dislocations: bone joints are separated from a normal position

When to visit the doctor?

It has been observed that many patients delay visiting the orthopedic surgeon. This can be because you might have ignored an injury that you had experienced years ago. Therefore, if you feel severe pain in joints like the knees, elbow, ankle, hips, etc., you need a doctor’s consultation immediately.

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What are the potential risks with arthroscopic procedures?

Arthroscopy procedures are considered one of the safest procedures. However, just like any other surgery, arthroscopy has its own risks. They can be:

Tissue or nerve damage.

Due to the movement of the orthopedic instruments within the joint, there is a possibility of tissue or nerve damage that might severely impact the joint structures.


With exposure to surgery, there is a possibility of infection.

Blood clots.

When arthroscopy lasts for more than an hour, there is a risk of development of blood clots in the legs or lungs.

How should the patient prepare for the surgery?

When it comes to surgery, patients should not only be prepared mentally but also physically. Discuss with your doctor whether you should avoid any medication or supplements you are taking before the surgery. Depending on the type of surgery, your doctor might advise you to restrict the consumption of any solid food eight hours before the surgery.

What to expect from the arthroscopic procedure?

The experience varies from patient to patient as well as from the type of procedure being performed and which joint is involved. Before the surgery, the orthopedic surgeon will ask for your allergies, medication you are taking, and any other illnesses like heart disease, blood pressure, or diabetes. This is done to avoid any kind of medical complications during the surgery.

During the procedure.

The first step for mostly any surgical procedure is anesthesia. However, it varies by procedure. Depending on the type of joint surgery, you will be placed on the operating table, and the limb that the doctor will work on will be positioned. The strap bandage will be used to reduce blood loss. The surgeon then makes a small incision to place the viewing device, and around the joint to place the surgical tools, additional small incisions made. The tools help to hold, grind, cut, and provide suction for the surgical procedure.

Once the surgery is done, the sutures are done.

After the procedure.

Arthroscopic surgery usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. However, depending on the severity of the joint infection, it can last for an hour as well. Aftercare steps you need to ensure:

  1. Take the right dose of medication prescribed by your doctor to get relief from inflammation and pain.
  2. As advised, take rest; do ice compressions to reduce any kind of pain or swelling.
  3. Consume a healthy diet and do regular exercises recommended by your doctor to get rid of weakness and improve the function of your joint.
  4. As suggested, go for regular physical therapy and rehabilitation to strengthen your muscles.

What are the possible complications that can occur with arthroscopic procedures?

With every surgery, there can always be some complications; however, if you witness them for a longer period, you need to immediately contact your doctor:

  • Constant fever
  • Excessive pain
  • Drainage from the incision
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Mild or severe tingling

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What is the recovery process?

Depending on the type of surgery, the recovery process can vary. However, with physical therapy and medications, you can resume day-to-day functioning within a few days of the surgery.

  • Is arthroscopy a major surgical procedure?

This is one of the minimally invasive surgeries with a fast recovery.

What is the possible recovery time?

Depending on the type of joint, the recovery time may extend up to 6 weeks.

Verified By Dr Abdul D Khan
MBBS(AMC, Vizag), MRCS(Edin UK), MRCS (Glasg, UK), FRCS(Tr & Orth)UK, CCT(Tr & Orth)UK, Senior Consultant Orthopaedician & HOD, Apollo Hospitals, Health City, Visakhapatnam
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