Key Points

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive way to do surgery on joints.

This technique can be used as a tool to diagnose a problem of a joint when other noninvasive tests are inconclusive.

A surgeon can more thoroughly examine a joint and more accurately treat the problem.

The patient has less pain and will recover quicker than with traditional surgery.



  • Joint diseases
    • Shoulder:  osteochondrosis flap removal, diagnostic arthroscopy, biceps tendon tears/tendonitis, instability of the shoulder due to tearing of collateral ligaments
    • Elbow:  fragmented coronoid processes, osteochondrosis
    • Stifle:  cruciate ligament tears, osteochondrosis, long digital extensor tendon avulsion
    • Tarsus:  osteochondrosis


Reasons to have surgery done arthroscopically

  • The surgeon can see the diseases better and thus treat the problem more thoroughly
  • Less invasive procedure
    • Less hair is generally shaved
    • Less pain
    • Less scar tissue develops, therefore better range of motion
    • More rapid return to function of the limb
    • Surgery can be done more rapidly in some cases, thus less anesthesia time for patient


How the procedure is done

  • A square region of hair is clipped over the joint
  • The joint is distended with sterile fluid
  • The ports for the camera and instruments are created with a couple of very small stab incisions
  • A camera (arthroscope) is inserted into the joint
  • A second port is made over the area of the joint that needs treatment
  • Abnormal tissue is removed using small forceps, or an arthroscopic power shaver


Examples of arthroscopic images from pets with problems


Additional examples of arthroscopic images can be seen in the following hyperlinks


Potential complications

  • Inability to perform surgery arthroscopically, thus necessitating an open surgical approach to the joint (this is uncommon)
  • Swelling from leaking of fluid from the joint during the procedure; this is not really considered a complication, but is expected after this type of surgery and will resolve within 1 to 2 days
  • Infection – rare
  • Anesthetic death – rare


← Back to all Pet Conditions