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Arthroscopy

How It Is Done continued...

A small incision about 0.25 in. (0.6 cm) will be made near your joint. Before inserting the arthroscope, an irrigation solution (usually saline) will be used to flush the joint space to provide a better view of the entire joint. A steady low flow of solution is usually used during the procedure to clear out any debris or blood in the joint so your doctor can evaluate your joint.

Once the arthroscope is inserted, your doctor will be able to see inside the joint by viewing a video monitor attached to the arthroscope. Your doctor or the surgical assistants may bend, extend, and reposition the joint to see it from different angles. Videotapes or photographs of the joint may also be taken.

If additional surgery is required to repair your joint problem, more small incisions will be made and other thin instruments will be inserted into your joint. When the arthroscope and any other instruments are taken out, any blood and debris will be flushed with saline and drained. To reduce inflammation or pain, local anesthetics or corticosteroids may be injected into your joint.

The small incision is closed with stitches. Depending on which joint was looked at, you may need to use splints, slings, or crutches to support movement of your joint during recovery.

After the procedure, you may need to rest your joint for several days. You may not be able to drive for 24 hours after the procedure, depending on which joint was looked at and what type of anesthetic you had. If your stitches are not absorbable, they will be removed in 7 to 10 days. Ice, elevation, and a compression bandage may be used to reduce any swelling, and pain relievers may be used to relieve any pain or discomfort. Ask your doctor for advice on strengthening your joint with exercise and when you can resume normal activity.

The time arthroscopy takes depends on what is done. It may take only about 15 minutes but it could take an hour or longer.

How It Feels

If you are given a local anesthetic before the procedure, you will feel a temporary burning or stinging sensation in your skin. As the arthroscope is inserted into the joint, you will feel a thumping sensation. You may feel slight pulling sensations in the joint area as your doctor moves joint structures around.

If you are given a general anesthetic before the procedure, you will be unconscious and will not feel anything during the procedure. If you are given a regional anesthetic, your arm or leg will be numb for several hours.

You may have some soreness and pain after the procedure. Your doctor will give you instructions on using pain medicine and applying ice to your joint (and possibly to elevate it) to reduce swelling and pain. Keep the bandages that cover your incision clean and dry.

After arthroscopy, you may notice bruising of your skin around the incision. This is temporary and should disappear within 2 weeks. It is normal for your joint to feel tender for about a week. Ask your doctor how much bleeding, drainage, or swelling from the incision site to expect. If you needed more extensive joint surgery, you may have more bleeding, drainage, pain, and swelling, and it may last longer than a simpler surgery.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 14, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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