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Arthroscopy is an orthopedic surgery that allows doctors to look inside patient’s joints and make repairs if necessary. It is most commonly used to address problems in the knees, shoulders, or hips.
In an arthroscopic examination, an orthopedic surgeon will make a small incision in the patient’s skin and then insert pencil-sized instruments that contains optical fibers and lenses, to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint. Light is transmitted through fiber optics to the end of the arthroscope that is inserted into the joint.
The arthroscope is connected to a video camera and the interior of the joint is seen on a television monitor. By doing this, the surgeon is able to see the interior of the joint through this very small incision rather than a large incision that would be necessary for open surgery. Because scoping requires only small incisions, it’s labeled a minimally invasive procedure.
The television camera attached to the arthroscope displays the image of the joint on a television screen, allowing the surgeon to look throughout the joint. For example, if the surgeon was looking at a patient’s knee, now the surgeon can see the cartilage, ligaments, and under the kneecap. The surgeon can then determine the type of injury and can repair or correct the problem, if necessary.

Why is arthroscopy necessary?

Diagnosing joint injuries and joint disease starts with a thorough process of tests. Through the arthroscope, a final diagnosis can be made, which may be more accurate than through open surgery or from X-ray result studies.

Reasons to have an arthroscopy procedure:

  • Injury of a joint during a sports activity.
  • Joint pain that doesn’t respond to conservative therapy such as rest, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication.
  • To repair torn ligaments or cartilage.
  • To remove cysts in or near a joint.
  • To examine a joint for damage.

Disease and injuries can damage bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Some of the most frequent conditions found during arthroscopic examinations of joints are:

  • Inflammation

For example, synovitis is an inflammation of the lining in the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or ankle.

  • Acute or Chronic Injury

Shoulder: Rotator cuff tendon tears, impingement syndrome, and recurrent dislocations

Knee: Meniscal (cartilage) tears, chondromalacia (wearing or injury of cartilage cushion), and anterior cruciate ligament tears with instability

Wrist: Carpal tunnel syndrome

Loose bodies of bone and/or cartilage: for example, knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, or wrist

Scoping offers many advantages over regular surgery, or open surgery. Because scoping a joint includes only a few small incisions, the patient should experience less pain during recovery and a shorter recovery time.

Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure during which the internal structure of a joint is examined for diagnosis and treatment of problems inside the joint.

Arthroscopic examination of joints is helpful in diagnosis and treatment of the following conditions:

Inflammation: Synovitis, the inflammation of the lining of the Shoulder, Elbow, Hand and Wrist. Acute or chronic injury: Injuries to the Shoulder, Knee and Wrist joint such as cartilage tears, tendon tears, carpal tunnel syndrome.

Osteoarthritis: A type of arthritis caused by cartilage loss in a joint. Removal of loose bodies of bone or cartilage that becomes logged within the joint.

During arthroscopic surgery, general, spinal, or a local anesthesia will be given depending on the condition. A small incision of the size of a buttonhole is made through which the arthroscope is inserted. Other accessory incisions will be made through which specially designed instruments are inserted. After the procedure is completed, arthroscope is removed and incisions are closed.

It may take several weeks for the puncture wounds to heal and the joint to recover completely. A rehabilitation program may be advised for a speedy recovery of normal joint function. You can resume normal activities and go back to work within a few days. You may be instructed about the incision care, activities to be avoided, and exercises to be performed for faster recovery.


NASA Bone & Joint is a Board Certified Orthopedic Center. Our two physicians, Dr. O’Neill and Dr. Monmouth are both board certified in general orthopedics. Dr. O’Neill is also certified in sports medicine. Both doctors trained at Harvard and have been practicing orthopedics in the Nassau Bay area for 25 years.

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