A mechanically expandable retractor for use in arthroscopic surgery. The retractor has an expanding portion at its distal end for expanding against sub-surface tissues when the retractor is in use. The expanding portion includes a plurality of radially expanding The radially outermost surface of each arm when expanded is longitudinally disposed approximately at the distal end of the retractor. The expanding arms can be disposed irregularly circumferentially around the retractor to expand the tissues to provide a working space between adjacent arms. The retractor is inserted through a small percutaneous opening, expanded in sub-surface tissues without significantly damaging the tissue, then collapsed after use for removal. The retractor has a projecting portion at a proximal end of the retractor for manipulating the retractor, to allow the surgeon to push or pull or lever on tissue.
The retractor can be hollow like a cannula to permit the passage of surgical instruments through the retractor, with a side portal into the passage. Alternatively, the retractor can be solid or needle-like. The retractor can include an expandable bladder which can circumscribe the expandable portion of the retractor or be placed elsewhere.