Arthroscopy is a specialised surgical procedure used quite commonly in humans and now more frequently in dogs and even cats.

Arthroscopy has been used for a long time in horses due to their large joint spaces.

Before arthroscopy became available, the investigation and surgical treatment of joint diseases or injuries was by open surgical technique. Open this involved complete opening up of the joint by making a surgical incision through the skin, muscles, joint capsule and synovial membrane, with closure by many stitches.

The degree of trauma to the joint is significant with arthrotomy. Surprisingly even with arthrotomy the visualisation of all joint compartments was still difficult due to the tight spaces and inaccessible spaces of some joints. Because arthroscopy involves inserting a very small rigid camera (scope) with very bright light emitting from the end, whole joints could be inspected more easily than could be achieved by arthrotomy.

The image is enlarged and put up on a monitor to allow for closer examination. The scope is inserted through a stab incision and only takes one stitch to close up afterwards, so the surgical trauma is minimal. Some instruments could be inserted through other stab incisions to allow for surgical treatment. For example, the shaver which is a motorised cutting tool that can be only 2 mm wide at its tip.

The degree of advancement in human arthroscopic surgery allows for practically all types of operations to be carried out. The commonest joints that have arthroscopy in dogs are the shoulder, elbow, stifle (knee) and the hip. Arthroscopy would be considered the gold standard for diagnostic procedures of the shoulder and elbow and is used to diagnose soft tissue injuries such as biceps tenosynovitis, elbow incongruenty, OCD, and other soft tissue or cartilage pathology.