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Arthroscopy is a form of keyhole surgery performed on joints such as the knees, ankles and shoulders to diagnose problems, and in some cases, carry out treatment.

Arthroscopy is usually performed as a day-case procedure.

What happens during arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy may be performed using a local, spinal or general anaesthetic.

The doctor inserts a slim metal instrument the width of a drinking straw, called an arthroscope, into the joint through a small incision. The device has a camera to allow doctors to look inside the joint.

Small surgical instruments can be used with the arthroscope to repair damaged cartilage, remove bone fragments and to treat frozen shoulder.

Preparing for arthroscopy

Specific instructions should be given before the day of the procedure.

Before undergoing any procedure, doctors or anaesthetists will want to know about any medications or supplements you are taking. You may be advised to stop some before the operation.

It will help to wear comfortable clothing that can be taken off and put back on easily.

The night before arthroscopy, do not drink or eat anything unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.

After the arthroscopy

After the procedure, you'll spend some time in a recovery room as the anaesthetic wears off.

Checks will be done before you can go home.

Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure - usually either on the same day or the day after.

Once you are home, seek medical advice if you feel unwell, with symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Increasing pain
  • Numbness, tingling
  • More swelling or redness
  • Coloured discharge from the wound, smelly discharge

What can I expect after arthroscopy?

You may feel drowsy for two to three days after surgery. You may be given painkillers to take as you rest and recover at home.

  • Wound care. Keep the site of the procedure clean, dry and bandaged. Take precautions when washing to keep it dry. You may need to return to a clinic or your GP to have the dressing changed.
  • Ice packs. You may be advised to use ice packs on the joint, and to elevate the leg.
  • Activity. Return to normal day-to-day activities as advised by the doctor. Ask about specific concerns, such as driving.
  • Depending on the operation, crutches or a brace may be provided.
  • Exercise. You may be advised to do certain exercises and physiotherapy appointments may be arranged.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 05, 2016

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