Arthroscope: A thin flexible fiberoptic scope which is introduced into a joint space through a small incision in order to carry out diagnostic and treatment procedures within the joint. An arthroscope is about the diameter of a drinking straw. It is fitted with a miniature camera, a light source and precision tools at the end of flexible tubes. An arthroscope can be used not only for diagnostic procedures but a wide range of surgical repairs, such as debridement, or cleaning, of a joint to remove bits of torn cartilage, ligament reconstruction, and synovectomy (removal of the joint lining). All are done without a major, invasive operation, and, since arthroscopy requires only tiny incisions, many procedures can be done on an outpatient basis with local anesthetic.
The arthroscope was invented by the Japanese physician Masaki Watanabe, in the early 1960s to permit orthopaedic surgery in a relatively noninvasive way. Watanabe based his invention on the cystoscope, an instrument used to examine the inside of the bladder. The first arthroscope had a tiny camera lens mounted on a flexible tube, which allowed a surgeon to peer into the interior of joints through a small incision. Over the years, the arthroscope has been refined but not fundamentally changed.