Initially restricted to the study of big joints (knee, shoulder), arthroscopy is now used for smaller cavity joints (elbow, ankle...) thanks to the instrument's becoming smaller. The purpose is to get a direct view of the joint cavities. Several small diameter orifices are used. Through one of them and into the joint a cavity, an optical system is introduced, made up of glass fibres transmitting light and connected to a screen through a camera. One other orifice or more will allow for a simultaneous introduction of various micro-machines, in order to carry out some surgical work.
This examination is meant to observe and touch the menisci, the inter-joint ligament structures, the cartilages, the synovium (the latter may be used to take samples for laboratory analysis).
Arthroscopy remains the ideal technique for treating meniscus injuries, the removal of free inter-joint foreign bodies, the treatment of localised and superficial cartilage injuries, the treatment of some types of joint stiffness or problems affecting the joint synovium.
Arthroscopy may also be associated to conventional open surgical work so as to optimise technical conditions and precision (ligament surgery of the knee).
See opposite, endoscopic view of a healthy meniscus.