Arthroscopic surgery is a procedure in which the inside of the joint can be evaluated and treated using surgical instruments with a small camera placed into the joint through small incisions.
According to the American Orthopedic Society of Sports Medicine, over four million knee arthroscopies are performed each year globally. An arthroscope is a very small camera instrument comparable to the size of a pencil. Arthroscopy is a standard surgical procedure, during which an orthopedic surgeon uses this small camera instrument to view clearly the inside of a joint. When performed on the knee, arthroscopy helps doctors see the structures of the knee with extreme accuracy, by inserting the arthroscope into the knee joint through small incisions (portals). The arthroscope sends images of the inside of the knee joint onto a television monitor, which allows the surgeon to feel, repair, and remove damaged tissue. To accomplish this, small surgical tools are inserted through other small incisions around the knee.
With an arthroscope (small camera), an orthopedic surgeon can see many structures inside of the knee. The knee is essentially a hinge assembled by the ends of the thigh bone (femur) and the leg bone (tibia). The knee cap (patella) is over the front of the knee joint and touches the femur when the knee bends. The exterior portion of the femur, tibia, and patella are covered with smooth cartilage (articular cartilage), which enables them to glide over each other when the knee bends and straightens. An arthroscope can see these structures and this articular cartilage, which is smooth, white, and about three to four millimeters thick.
An arthroscope also makes visible a second type of cartilage in the knee, called the meniscus. The meniscus is a tough and fibrous type of cartilage that is located between the ends of the tibia and the femur, and is fastened to the lining of the joint. The main function of the menisci is shock absorption between the ends of the bones, to cushion the surface articular cartilage. There are two different meniscal cartilages in the knee. Both are relatively C-shaped: one on the inner half of the knee (medial meniscus), and one on the outer half of the knee (lateral meniscus).
An arthroscope can also make visible the ligaments within the knee, specifically the large anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments.
Knee arthroscopy surgery may be performed to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of knee problems. Technical advancements have resulted in very high definition monitors and high-resolution cameras, along with other developments that allow knee arthroscopy to be a very successful tool for treating knee problems. An orthopedic surgeon may recommend knee arthroscopy surgery to diagnose, locate, repair, and extract damaged tissue.
Read more about arthroscopic surgery for knee injuries.