Arthroscopy allows surgeons to use a type of keyhole surgery to diagnose and treat joint problems.
A small telescope (arthroscope) with a light source and a camera - about the width of a drinking straw - allows the surgeon to examine the inside of the joint and treat a range of problems. The surgeon views images from the camera on a television monitor in the operating theatre. Arthroscopy is not often used in elbow surgery because of the small size of the joint and the increased risk of nerve damage as a result. Open surgery enables the specialist to have easier access to the joint.
Procedures are usually carried out under a general anaesthetic as a day case. Because only tiny incisions are made, recovery time is much quicker than with conventional surgery.
Procedures include removing loose bone fragments, fracture care and tidying up the joint (debridement); helping relieve joint stiffness; and treating the early signs of arthritis.
To carry out an arthroscopy, the surgeon usually makes two tiny incisions (cuts), one for the arthroscope and a second for the surgical instrument itself.
You will be able to move your elbow as much as is comfortable. Your stitches will be removed after around 10 days. Depending on the type of procedure you have had, you should be able to use a computer keyboard within a few days and be able to drive after around three weeks, but your surgeon will be able to advise you about this.
The scar over the operation site is smaller than with conventional surgery. This helps with healing, as well as reducing permanent scarring. The length of your hospital stay is likely to be shorter because the procedure is less invasive. The healing and rehabilitation time can be shorter.
As with any surgery, there is a risk of damage to nerves and other blood vessels. The technique can be challenging, especially in repeated surgical cases or where deformity exists. The surgeon may have to resort to open surgery if the attempted arthroscopy is too difficult.