Is Arthroscopic Surgery safe?

Updated on March 18, 2020

Arthroscopic surgery is one of the most influential developments in the surgical field in the last several decades. As technology has advanced, it has given our medical professionals a whole new arsenal of methods or techniques to deal with a multitude of issues. The idea of allowing doctors to probe around inside of you may just sound downright dastardly, but this is truly a better way to do surgery than previously available methods. Arthroscopic procedures have been performed for over forty years now and have been proven to have shorter recovery periods, less chance of complication, and are overall less invasive than traditional surgery requiring lesions. They also have some other beneficial attributes not provided by traditional methods such as terrific visibility and far more specific movements than could be done by hand which together minimize the chance of operator error. 

It has Been Around a While

With its very first beginnings as far back as 1912 at the Proceedings of the 41st Congress of the German Society of Surgeons at Berlin where arthroscopies of the knee joint were described or in Japan in the 1920s where a medical professional used very rudimentary precursor technologies to the ones we use today to diagnose issues of the knee joint. We can ascertain from these early ideas (that there are better methods that what has been available) have been a driving factor for the development of arthroscopic techniques. As time has progressed, the advent of improved optical technology, improved robotic capabilities, and advancements in computational analysis have truly allowed arthroscopic technology to find its true form. Thankfully, we are around this day in age where we can benefit from the endeavors of our previous generations. After the multiple generations of development, this technology can be used safely and effectively to deal with issues that previously may not have been viable or fixing issues much more effectively than traditional methods. 


Arthroscopic surgery is done through a very small incision using flexible tools. The arthroscopic probes are robotic arms fitted with fiber optic cables connecting mounted video cameras that enable the user to very accurately find and deal with issues inside the body. The fiber optic cables run from the camera to a relay station (computer/monitor) where the surgeon can view and control the movements of the device.

Repairs can be done for a variety of joint conditions. The specific repairs that can be made to alleviate such conditions may include the removal of loose bone fragments, repair of damaged or torn cartilage, reduction of inflamed joint linings, repair of torn ligaments, and repair of scarring within joints. Doing these tasks can greatly alleviate pain, increase stability and eventually even increase mobility. This technique has been so successful for joint surgery that the traditional method that utilized large incisions and resulted in extremely long recovery times for the most part has been done away with. 

Arthroscopy is also commonly used for diagnosing joint damage that cannot be accessed using X ray or MRI scans. This may be due to a difficult location or an obstruction making imaging difficult, however arthroscopic techniques can accurately view and diagnose issues that even scans cannot. Having the ability to, with full certainty, diagnose issues of the joint is very reassuring. In previous eras, if the issue could not be determined it was likely that the issue could not be fixed. Nowadays, there are few joint issues that cannot be, at the very least, improved. 

Decisions Decisions

If you are reading this, you might be interested in some helpful information on making important decisions regarding arthroscopic medical procedures. Obviously, if you have an important decision like this, you will be taking all parameters into account and consulting with a medical professional. Ignoring the possibility of medical bills and other specifics you may have, there are always a few important pillars to take into account. 

Generally speaking, it is always very important to do all possible alternatives to surgery before committing to surgery. This is for a few reasons. The body’s ability to heal itself against even poor odds can be astounding. As Dr. Peter Howard, a Florida orthopedic shoulder surgeon, recommends, your priority should be to assist the powerful natural healing processes of our own bodies before permanently altering anything. Surgery inherently has an element of risk, however small, and therefore requires thoughtful attention before a decision can be made. However the risks during arthroscopic surgery are minimized to the furthest degree compared to traditional practices. 

In cases where the issues cannot be ascertained through scans or the issue requires arthroscopic techniques for diagnosis, the decision is a bit more straightforward. As it is likely that attempts at treatment from the exterior will not be effective without a proper diagnosis, arthroscopic procedures become the necessary option. It is also possible that the diagnosis indicates that if surgery is not performed there will be deteriorative effects on the body. If these scenarios happen to be the case, then arthroscopic surgery is an appropriate option without exhausting all non-surgical methods of treatment.  

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