(Fiberoptic Joint Examination)En Español (Spanish Version)
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Visual examination of a joint with an arthroscope, which is a fiberoptic instrument with a lighted tip. Arthroscopy is also used to perform some corrective surgeries.
Diagnostic Arthroscopy of the Right Knee
© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.
Reasons for Procedure
Arthroscopy is done to visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint. The procedure is most often performed for the following reasons:
- Diagnosis of an injury or disease inside a joint
- Removal of bone or cartilage
- Repair of tendons or ligaments
Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure
- Pre-existing heart or lung condition
- Recent or chronic illness
- Bleeding disorders
- Certain medications such as blood thinners
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will likely do the following:
In the days leading up to your procedure:
- Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure
- The night before, do not eat or drink anything after midnight
- You may be asked to use pre-surgical scrubs to the affected joint
IV fluids, anesthesia, possibly a sedative
General, local, or spinal anesthetic, depending on the joint.
Description of the Procedure
The surgeon makes tiny skin incision(s) along the joint and inserts pencil-sized instruments that contain a small lens and lighting system to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint. By attaching the arthroscope to a miniature television camera, the surgeon is able to see the inside of the joint.
In some cases, surgical repair can also be done via arthroscopy. For example, many meniscal (cartilage) tears of the knee can be treated with arthroscopic surgery, as can carpal tunnel syndrome in a procedure called carpal tunnel release .
After the arthroscope is removed, the incisions will be covered with a dressing, and the skin may be closed with stitches or clips. These are usually removed 7 to 10 days after the procedure.
Laboratory examination of the removed fluid or tissue.
How Long Will It Take?
Usually less than one hour
Will It Hurt?
Most patients report no pain during the procedure.
- Blood clots in a vein ( phlebitis )
- Excessive swelling or bleeding
- Damage to blood vessels or nerves
Average Hospital Stay
- The operative dressing can usually be removed the morning after surgery and replaced with small adhesive strips
- Apply ice for the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery
- Move and elevate legs while resting in bed
- Keep the incision area dry; shower with a plastic bag securely taped above and below the area
- You may be instructed to use crutches or a cane for the first few days
- Take only non-aspirin containing medications for minor pain
It takes 4 to 6 weeks for the affected joint to recover, but you can probably go back to work or resume daily activities within a few days. A specific activity and rehabilitation program may be suggested by your surgeon or physiatrist, in order to speed your recovery and protect future joint function.
Athletes and others in good physical condition prior to arthroscopy often return to athletic competition within a few weeks. NOTE: Repair of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) by arthroscope may require a recovery time of 4 to 6 months, and a more specialized rehabilitation program.
Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision sites
- Nausea or vomiting
- Swelling, tingling, pain, or numbness in your toes that is not relieved by elevating your knee above heart level for one hour
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
The Arthritis Society
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org . Accessed October 14, 2005.
Arthroscopy Association of North America website. Available at: http://www.aana.org/ . Accessed October 14, 2005.
Last reviewed December 2007 by John C. Keel, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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