The Basics

Arthroscopy is a test that allows your doctor to examine the inside of your joint using a thin instrument called an arthroscope. Arthroscopy may be used to view joint surfaces and surrounding tissues to diagnose a joint problem, to treat a joint problem, or to monitor the progression of joint conditions.

Joint problems that may be treated by this procedure may include bone fragmentation, damaged or torn cartilage or ligaments, inflamed joint linings, joint infections, or scarring within the joints.

Your doctor will decide how often you may need this test. An arthroscopy may be performed on the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, hip, or wrist.

Risks and precautions

Arthroscopy is sometimes done under general anesthesia. In general, surgery and the use of anesthesia come with some risks that are associated with factors like your health condition and what the surgery involves. Side effects are very rare but can include trouble breathing, reactions to the anesthetic, bleeding, infection, scarring, and death.

Arthroscopy is usually a straightforward and safe procedure. However, there are some risks of complications or side effects, including:

  • bleeding
  • infection (fever, chills, welling, redness, pus, swollen lymph node, and warmth around the joint)
  • blood clot in the limb
  • damage to the nerves, the joint, or the tissues around the joint
  • pressure buildup in muscle (compartment syndrome)

Get immediate medical assistance if you experience any of these complications or side effects.

It is important that you understand all the risks of complications and side effects of the test, and what you or your doctor can do to avoid them. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all your concerns.

Before the test

It is important that you fully understand what the test involves beforehand. Ask your doctor to explain the risks, benefits, and drawbacks of the test, and don't be shy to probe further until you are comfortable with your doctor's responses.

You should let your doctor know if you may be pregnant, have any medical conditions or have injured the joint being examined in the past.

You may not be able to eat or drink before the procedure; follow the timing that your doctor recommended. In general, people are advised to not eat for 8 hours before the procedure; however, you may continue to drink clear liquids until 2 hours before the procedure.

If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you to stop taking any of these medications and products before the test. It is also important to tell them if you have allergies to certain medications or have certain medical conditions.

Plan to have someone drive you home after the test.

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The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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