Arthroscopy uses a small fiberoptic scope inserted through a small incision in the skin to see inside a joint. It is primarily a diagnostic tool, allowing surgeons to view joint problems without major surgery. Depending on the problem found, surgeons may use small tools inserted through additional incisions to repair the damage, such as a torn meniscus or a torn ligament that fails to heal naturally. Using arthroscopy, for example, a surgeon may reattach the torn ends of a ligament or reconstruct the ligaments by using a piece (graft) of healthy ligament from the patient or from a cadaver.
Because arthroscopy uses tiny incisions, it results in less trauma, swelling, and scar tissue than conventional surgery, which in turn decreases hospitalization and rehabilitation times. Problems can be diagnosed earlier and treated without serious health risks or more invasive procedures. Furthermore, because injuries are often addressed at an earlier stage, operations are more likely to be successful.