Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure orthopaedic surgeons use to visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint using a tube-like viewing instrument called an arthroscope. The word arthroscopy comes from two Greek words, “arthro” (joint) and “skopein” (to look). The term literally means “to look within the joint.”
In an arthroscopic examination, an orthopaedic surgeon makes a small incision in the patient’s skin and then inserts pencil-sized instruments that contain a small lens and lighting system 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. By attaching the arthroscope to a miniature television camera, the surgeon is able to see the interior of the joint through this very small incision rather than a large incision needed for surgery. The surgeon can determine the amount or type of injury and then repair or correct the problem, if it is necessary.
Here are parts of the shoulder joint as seen trhough an arthroscope: the rotator cuff (RC), the head fo the humerus (HH), and the biceps tendon (B).