Arthroscopic surgery allows an orthopedic surgeon to see inside your joint without making a large incision. The surgeon inserts a long, thin tube with a video camera and a light on the end to diagnose and treat structural problems within a joint that’s causing pain, instability, or other dysfunction. Physicians turn to arthroscopic surgery if X-rays and other imaging has left some diagnostic questions unanswered. A surgeon may repair some types of joint damage during arthroscopy using small tools and additional tiny incisions.
At A Glance: Arthroscopy
Also Known As
Local, Regional, or General
Typical Recovery Time
Weeks to Months
Typical Price Range
Tell Me About The Surgery
Procedure Research and Consultation
How is arthroscopy done?
During arthroscopy, an orthopedic surgeon makes two or three incisions in the treatment area. The surgeon inserts the arthroscope and any other necessary instruments into the small incisions. Images are sent from the arthroscope to a monitor, so the surgeon can examine joints, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The images are used to diagnose or surgically treat the problem. The arthroscope is removed, and the incision is closed with stitches or staples and a bandage.
What issue does arthroscopy solve?
Arthroscopy is a safe, effective way to examine joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons and perform treatments.
Do I have options for anesthesia for arthroscopic surgery?
Options for arthroscopic surgery include local anesthesia, which will block the sensation where the surgery is being performed, regional anesthesia, which will numb the bottom half of your body, and general anesthesia, which will induce unconsciousness.
How do I know if arthroscopy is right for me?
You might be a good candidate for arthroscopy if you have an injured joint, cartilage, tendon, or ligament. Arthroscopy is an option if you don’t get relief from nonsurgical treatments, such as medications, physical therapy, and rest.
How safe is arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy is a relatively safe procedure compared to open surgery. You should also know that Hancock Regional Hospital has been rated one of the safest hospitals in America by The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit health care watchdog organization; and was named the safest hospital in Indiana on the Lown Institute Hospital Index.
What are possible side effects and complications of arthroscopy?
While they’re rare, potential complications to arthroscopy include allergic reaction to anesthesia, blood clots, damage to surrounding tissue or nerves, infection, and excessive bleeding or swelling.
What are the possible side effects of general anesthesia?
Some of the possible side effects include nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, bruising (from the IV), itching, shivering and feeling cold, difficulty urinating, and sleepiness. In older patients, memory loss and temporary confusion are possible.
What are the alternatives to arthroscopy?
Before deciding on arthroscopy as a solution to your joint problems, you might want to consider the alternatives. These include: exercise and weight loss, physical therapy, medications, dietary supplements, and joint replacement surgery.
What are the risks of not having arthroscopic surgery?
If you need arthroscopy and you don’t have it, it may delay your healthcare provider’s ability to accurately diagnose your issue and outline an effective course of treatment—or an untreated issue that could be repaired with arthroscopic surgery may get worse.
What kind of outcome is typical for arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy is used to diagnose and treat a range of joint, tendon, and ligament issues, such as knee pain, ligament tears, rotator cuff tears, arthritis, wrist pain, and more.
Consultation and Choosing A Surgeon or Surgical Team
Do I need a referral to see a surgeon about arthroscopic surgery?
Your health insurance provider may require you to get a referral from your primary care provider to see a surgeon about arthroscopic surgery.
What should I bring to my first appointment with a surgeon to talk about arthroscopic surgery?
Insurance information Medical records, including your medical history, from your primary care physicianThe most recent diagnostic labs and imaging (Not sure where to go? Check out Gateway Hancock Health, where you’ll be able to get in and out quickly and pay, on average, 70% less than you’ll pay at a hospital.)
Do I have to get a second or third opinion for arthroscopic surgery?
You can always get a second or third opinion, but it isn’t required.
How should I decide which surgeon’s advice to follow?
You should work with the surgeon with whom you feel comfortable, whether that’s one of our surgeons or not.
Will the surgical team know my health history?
Your health history will be compiled and available to the team before, during, and after surgery. If you’re a Hancock Health patient, we will be able to access your records within our system. If you aren’t, we will work with your doctors to get the necessary information.
Why might I have to wait to have arthroscopic surgery?
In some cases, it takes time for a patient’s body to be ready for surgery. For example, if you have another medical issue including another surgical procedure or an illness, we might wait to schedule surgery. Your health and safety are our top priorities, so we schedule surgeries when they’re best for our patients.
What happens if my symptoms get worse while I wait for arthroscopic surgery?
Your surgical team will evaluate the situation and help you make a choice that’s right for you and your health. Temporary treatments might be used if your surgery is rescheduled.
Insurance & Cost
How much does arthroscopic surgery cost?
Consult the Price Transparency Tool at HancockRegionalHospital.org for an idea of how much arthroscopic surgery might cost.
Will insurance cover arthroscopy?
In most cases, insurance will cover most of the costs associated with arthroscopy. To obtain your possible out-of-pocket expenses, use our Price Estimator Tool.
Will Medicare cover arthroscopic surgery?
Medicare parts A and B will cover the cost of arthroscopic surgery, but it’s important for your doctor to indicate that the surgery is medically necessary.
What are payment options like for arthroscopic surgery at Hancock Health?
Hancock Health is committed to helping make great care affordable for all patients. To find out more about payment options, please visit the billing and insurance FAQ page at HancockRegionalHospital.org.
Pre-op and Day of Surgery
How should I prepare for arthroscopic surgery?
You’ll probably be instructed not to eat anything after midnight on the day of your surgery, and you might also be told to stop taking certain medications or dietary supplements.
Why can’t I eat before surgery?
There’s a risk of aspiration, which means breathing foreign objects, like food or saliva, into your lungs. This can occur because the anesthetic for surgery can impair your body’s ability to stop the contents of your stomach from entering your lungs.
What should I expect right before arthroscopic surgery?
You’ll arrive several hours before your surgery and be escorted to the preoperative waiting area.You’ll remove all of your clothing and jewelry, and put on a hospital gown. (Your valuables will be placed in a secure area or may be given to a family member.) You’ll sign any necessary paperwork and a preoperative nurse will take your vital signs, review your medications, and answer any questions.You’ll meet your anesthesiologist and the members of your surgery team. They will mark the location of your surgery on your body. An I.V. (intravenous line) will be placed in your hand or arm, so medications—including general anesthesia—can be administered. If you’re using a different kind of anesthesia, you’ll receive an injection.When it’s time for your surgery, you will be wheeled into the operating suite on a stretcher.
Will I need someone to take me home after arthroscopic surgery?
For your safety and the safety of other motorists, you will need someone to drive you home. If you don’t have a ride, we’ll help you arrange one.
Why are there so many people on my surgery team?
In addition to the surgeon, you have an anesthesiologist, who handles your anesthesia, nurses—some of them specialize in working with patients and others assist the surgeon—and support staff, who get you checked in and out, compile your records, and more. They all work together, performing their individual jobs, so the procedure is as successful as possible.
Why am I asked for my name and date of birth every time I get medicine?
It’s a safety precaution to make sure you’re receiving the medication that’s prescribed for you.
What do I need to bring to the hospital the day of my arthroscopic surgery?
Anything you’ll need for an overnight stay, including a change of underwear, a sweatshirt, glasses or contacts, headphones, and your medications.
How long does it take the anesthesia to wear off?
It takes about an hour for general anesthesia to wear off, but you may notice the effects for a day or so. It usually takes 30 minutes to an hour for local anesthesia to wear off, though the effects can last a few hours.
What will happen during arthroscopic surgery?
You’ll breathe oxygen through a mask and your team will track your vital signs as the surgery is performed.
When will my family be informed about how I’m doing?
Our associates will get information from the surgical team in the operating room during your surgery and keep them updated. Following the procedure, your surgeon will talk with them in person.
How long will arthroscopic surgery take?
Arthroscopy typically takes under an hour.
How long will I be under for arthroscopic surgery?
If your surgery requires general anesthesia, you will be anesthetized during the entire procedure and a few minutes afterward. If regional or local anesthesia is used, you will remain awake but you won’t feel pain.
How long will I be in the hospital after arthroscopic surgery?
Most arthroscopic surgery is outpatient, and you will be released within a few hours of the completion of your surgery.
What can I expect right after arthroscopy?
After surgery, you’ll move to the recovery room and, as you start to regain feeling in your body, you’ll receive pain medication. After leaving the recovery room, you’ll be taken to your hospital room where you will be able to see friends or family who came with you.
How will I know if arthroscopy worked?
Your surgeon will discuss your procedure with you.
When will I get to talk to my surgeon after surgery?
You’ll be able to talk to your surgeon immediately after your procedure, while you’re in the recovery room.
How soon after arthroscopic surgery will I be up and moving around?
This depends on the arthroscopy surgery. Typically, you will be able to return to work and some normal activities within a few days. It’s important to follow the recommendations of your surgery and physical therapy teams throughout your recovery process.
Will I receive pain medication right after arthroscopic surgery?
In most cases, patients receive pain medication immediately following surgery.
How soon after arthroscopic surgery can I eat or drink?
You may not be able to eat or drink right away and you may be asked to follow a clear fluid diet for one to three days. After that, you may return to solid foods—but easy-to-digest items, including soups, pudding, and yogurt, are recommended.
Will I need to fill any prescriptions or take medication after arthroscopic surgery?
You may be prescribed pain medication, anticoagulants, and/or other symptom-reducing medications.
Recovery and Follow-Up
What will I need to do to prepare for my recovery from arthroscopic surgery?
Make sure you’ll have help with everyday tasks, such as cooking, showering, and doing laundry. If you live alone, our associates can help you find a temporary caretaker.
How should I prepare to recover from arthroscopic surgery at home?
Create a living space on your first floor—climbing stairs can be difficult right after surgery.Remove loose rugs and cords. Install safety bars or a secure handrail in your shower or bath and secure stairway handrails.Get a stable, comfortable chair with a firm seat cushion and back, and a footstool to elevate your leg if you’re recovering from an ankle or knee arthroscopy.Arrange for a toilet seat riser with arms if you have a low toilet.Get a bench or chair for your shower.Shop for the groceries you’ll need when you return home from the hospital.If you live alone, ask a friend or family member to check in with you.
If I need physical therapy or rehabilitation after arthroscopy, how is that arranged?
Our associates will help you arrange the postoperative care you’ll need.
Will I need any follow-up appointments or procedures after arthroscopic surgery?
You’ll have an appointment with your surgeon about two weeks after your surgery. Your outpatient physical therapy sessions will begin almost immediately following your surgery and last for six to 12 weeks, maybe more. You’ll also schedule another appointment to check in with your surgeon about a year after your procedure.
Will there be any scarring or stitches to remove after arthroscopic surgery?
Your stitches or staples will likely be removed during your first postoperative appointment with your surgeon, about two weeks after surgery. There will be a scar where the incision was made.
What do I need to have to care for any wounds or incisions?
You’ll need fresh dressings but you won’t need antibiotic ointment, as putting it on the area is unnecessary.
How do I care for my incision at home?
Change your dressing daily, starting two days after you leave the hospital. Don’t scrub the incision area. If you have steri-strips over your incision, they will fall off on their own within about two weeks.You may remove your dressing and shower two days after your surgery if there is no drainage from your incision. Carefully pat the incision dry after your shower and reapply the dressing.For about two weeks, don’t submerge your incision in water by taking a bath or getting in a pool or hot tub. When the incisions are completely healed, feel free to resume those activities.
What should I do if I have an emergency or accident after arthroscopic surgery?
If you fall after surgery, or have another kind of emergency, call your surgeon’s office. If you’re in need of immediate emergency services, go to the nearest emergency room.
When will I be able to get back to work after arthroscopic surgery?
Depending on the joint you have fused, you may be able to return to work within a few days. Follow your team’s advice on activity after surgery closely.
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