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Types of Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical approach that is frequently used to diagnose and treat joint problems. While not appropriate for all injuries, it can reduce the need for major surgical intervention for common conditions. Tampa General Hospital’s Orthopedic Institute is home to a multidisciplinary team of specialists, from orthopedic surgeons to physical and occupational therapists, who deliver world-class care to patients requiring arthroscopy.

Conditions Treated With Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy can be used to treat conditions in the knees, shoulders, hips, ankles, elbows and wrists, such as:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears
  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Cartilage tears in the knees
  • Chondromalacia (cartilage damage of the kneecap)
  • Inflammation
  • Labral tears
  • Loose bone or cartilage
  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Shoulder bursitis
  • Shoulder dislocations (recurrent)
  • Shoulder impingements

How Arthroscopy Is Performed

During an arthroscopy, an orthopedic surgeon makes a small incision near the joint and then inserts an arthroscope (a thin, flexible tube with a light and fiber-optic camera attached to its end) through the incision and into the joint. From there, the surgeon can view the joint to diagnose the injury as well as repair the joint using specialized surgical tools.

What to Expect After an Arthroscopy

As a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure, arthroscopy has a relatively quick recovery period. Most patients can return to work within a week and resume their active lifestyle within a few months.

While the risks associated with arthroscopy procedures are exceedingly rare, they do occur and may include:

  • Excessive swelling
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Infection
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Damage to blood vessels or nerves

Effectiveness of Arthroscopy Procedures

Arthroscopy can be quite effective and has become the go-to surgical approach for many people, from elite athletes to casual runners. While less effective for degenerative joint problems—for example, end-stage osteoarthritis is typically better served with a total knee replacement rather than arthroscopy—it’s particularly useful for acute and chronic injuries.

It’s important to note, too, that the effectiveness of an arthroscopic procedure depends on following your orthopedic surgeon’s recovery plan to the letter. Recovery often involves going to physical therapy or doing at-home exercises to restore full function to the joint, and it’s crucial to abide by this plan.