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Arthroscopy (keyhole surgery)

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Arthroscopy, commonly known as keyhole surgery, is a type of operation that can be used to treat many joint problems without having to open up the whole joint. Keyhole surgery involves small incisions, usually one for a camera and one or more for instruments to allow the surgeon to work on the inside of your joint. It saves having to have a large open incision for a surgeon to look at the joint directly and operate.

Joint keyhole surgery can be used to look at structures within a joint, remove troublesome tissue or repair a damaged structure.

Knee arthroscopy is the most common keyhole surgery performed for musculoskeletal problems. Other joints that commonly require keyhole surgery include the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip and ankles.

What are the advantages?

There are many advantages to performing keyhole surgery, including less pain after the surgery, a quicker recovery and lower risks of the operation.

If you have a problematic joint that fails to improve with simple measures, your doctor may refer you to a specialist. Depending on what the problem is, the surgeon may offer you a keyhole operation.

What happens before the procedure?

If you have decided to go ahead with an arthroscopy you will first be seen in a pre-assessment clinic in the hospital to make sure that you are fit enough for an anesthetic, and you may have blood tests done.

Will I go home on the day?

Most keyhole surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure, where you go home on the same day as the surgery. Depending on the nature of your operation and what your surgeon needs to do, you may require a certain time resting, or using crutches if you've had an operation on your lower limbs. Most people recover from the general anesthetic within 24-48 hours and the small wounds start to heal within a few days.

What about follow up?

Your doctor will usually see you several weeks after your joint keyhole surgery to check how you are doing and ensure that the surgery has been a success. It is important to remember, however, that any surgical procedure can take many weeks to months to see improvement and a full recovery.

Related topics

Read about Knee pain

Read about Anterior cruciate ligament injury

Read about Shoulder pain: when to do something about it

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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