Arthroscopy has fast become one of the least invasive exploratory and surgical procedures available for many upper extremity injuries and conditions that exist today. The slender instruments require only a small incision, where a narrow, surgical telescope (arthroscope) attached to a special camera within the operating room travels unobtrusively around the inside of the joint - allowing a three-dimensional view of the affected area with magnified clarity on a nearby monitor.
Arthroscopic surgery is performed in an environment in which the joint is inflated with pressurized water. The arthroscope traveling through the joint has a small lens and fiber optic lighting system that enlarges and illuminates the area - for a complete assessment of the injury with minimal contact.
Arthroscopy is used in both diagnosing a problem, as well as repairing some minor injuries non responsive to conservative treatment such as cartilage and tendon tears. It is also used in treating some larger rotator cuff tears and in treating other shoulder instability, elbow and wrist conditions formerly requiring more invasive surgical procedures and incisions.
The small surgical area and incision (generally smaller than a dime) involved in an arthroscopy dramatically reduces the risk of infection and overall recovery time. Involving either a general or regional anesthetic, most arthroscopic procedures are done on an outpatient basis.