Arthroscopic surgery is a less invasive option to open surgery. Slender instruments and a small incision pose less risk to tissue surrounding the joint. Arthroscopy is used as both a diagnostic tool and treatment option, which is generally performed as an outpatient procedure.

The word arthroscopy comes from two Greek words. Arthro actually means "joint," and Skopein "to look." An arthroscopy is done in an environment in which a very small incision is made and the joint is inflated with pressurized water. An instrument the size of a pencil in diameter is inserted through the small incision of the affected area. The thin instrument is called an arthroscope - and has a small lens and fiber optic lighting system that enlarges and illuminates the area inside the joint. Three-dimensional images of the joint are then transmitted onto a monitor approximately the size of a 24" television screen, allowing a clear view of the area with little disturbance to the surrounding tissue.

Arthroscopy is far less invasive to the muscles, ligaments and surrounding tissue than open surgery. The smaller incision minimizes scarring and reduces the risk of infection, prompting faster healing and a more rapid recovery.

With the refinement of arthroscopic tools, arthroscopic surgery once performed primarily on the knee and shoulder are today very effective on smaller joints such as the elbow, ankle and wrist as well. The procedure is frequently used to remove loose bony fragments, inflamed synovial tissue and diseased articular cartilage.