Arthroscopic Surgery, is it right for me?

Michael Dolecki, MD
Bitterroot Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
(406) 375-4868


Arthroscopic surgery is considered one of the greatest advances in Orthopaedic Surgery in the past 50 years. The ability to view (scope) the inside of a joint (arthro) has been made possible by the technology advancements in high resolution cameras and high definition video screens. In the past, surgery required making an open incision which required splitting layers of skin, adipose tissue and muscle to look inside a joint. This damage to the surrounding tissue led to longer healing times mainly because of scar formation, a normal process of tissue healing. If scar forms around a joint, stiffness can result. Open procedures can also be more painful and sometimes have a higher infection rate.

The development of arthroscopic techniques allowed for much smaller incisions and the ability to "poke" through the tissues instead of splitting them. This results in less damage to the surrounding tissue meaning less scar formation and usually less stiffness. The major benefit becomes faster healing and a speedier recovery. Commonly, return to normal activities after arthroscopic surgery is cut in half, typically 2-4 weeks instead of 6-8 weeks for open surgery.

The most common joint for arthroscopic surgery is the knee joint. In fact the most common Orthopaedic surgical procedure being performed in the United States on an annual basis is arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus cartilage. By using well established portals or windows, a surgeon can inspect the entire knee joint with as little as two small incisions. Aside from the ability to view all areas of the knee joint, the development of specially designed scissors, shavers, screws, anchors, etc. allow the surgeon to repair the damage to tissues seen with the scope including the meniscus, ligaments, synovium or joint lining, and articular cartilage.
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