When an arthroscopy may be used 

An arthroscopy can be carried out to help diagnose and treat a number of joint problems and conditions.

Diagnosing joint problems

An arthroscopy can be used to help investigate:

  • joint pain
  • joint stiffness
  • swelling of the joint
  • the joint giving way or "popping" out of position

These problems are usually first investigated using X-rays, computerised tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. If these scans don't find anything, it may be necessary to take a direct look at the inside of the joint.

An arthroscopy can also be used to assess the level of joint damage resulting from an injury, such as a sports injury, or from underlying conditions that can cause joint damage, such as osteoarthritis.

Treating joint problems and conditions

Fine surgical instruments can be used along with an arthroscope to allow a surgeon to treat a range of joint problems and conditions. For example, an arthroscopy can be used to:

  • repair damaged cartilage, tendons and ligaments (for example, in knee ligament surgery)
  • remove inflamed tissue
  • remove small sections of bone and cartilage that have broken off and are loose within the joint
  • drain away an excess build-up of synovial fluid (which lubricates the joint)

Conditions that can be treated with arthroscopy include:

  • arthritis – a common condition that causes pain and inflammation within a joint
  • Baker's cyst – a build-up of synovial fluid inside a joint, leading to stiffness and swelling
  • frozen shoulder – pain and stiffness in the shoulder that tends to get gradually worse
  • carpal tunnel syndrome – a tingling sensation, numbness and sometimes pain in the hand and fingers
  • arthrofibrosis – excess scar tissue caused by a previous injury that disrupts the normal workings of the joint
  • bone spurs – abnormal bone growths that can cause persistent pain
  • synovitis – inflammation of the joint lining
  • temporomandibular disorder (TMD) – a problem that affects the joint between the lower jaw and the base of the skull

Page last reviewed: 27/04/2015

Next review due: 27/04/2017