Knee Arthroscopy

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About knee arthroscopy

Knee arthroscopy is a type of minimally-invasive (keyhole) surgery that is used to diagnose and treat knee pain.

Using an instrument called an arthroscope, the orthopaedic surgeon can look inside the knee to diagnose and treat certain types of injury, infection or inflammation. An arthroscope is a thin flexible tube with a camera at one end. Tiny surgical instruments can be fed through the tube to repair tissue damage and take biopsies.

You may be offered the procedure if have pain or if your knee it prone to catching or giving way. It may not be suitable for degenerative conditions such as knee osteoarthritis.

Prior to the procedure you will meet with the surgeon who will explain how to prepare. If you smoke you will be asked to stop as it can increase the likelihood of developing an infection and other complications.

Knee arthroscopy is normally performed under general anaesthetic, which means you will be asleep throughout the procedure, although it can also be carried out under local anaesthetic. You will be given surgical stockings to wear on the leg that is not being treated. This is to help prevent blood clots from forming. You may also be given an injection of an anti-clotting drug.

The procedure normally takes an hour or less. Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, an incision will be made in your knee and the joint will be cleaned with sterile fluid. The arthroscope will be inserted into the joint and the surgeon will look on a monitor at images from inside the joint. Once they have diagnosed the problem they may be able to treat it there and then using tiny surgical instruments to repair or remove damaged tissue. At the end of the procedure fluid will be drained from the joint and the incision will be closed with sutures or adhesive strips.

You will be taken to the recovery room and monitored while the anaesthetic wears off. You will need someone to take you home and you will normally need to rest your knee for a few days if you have had surgery. A physical therapist may recommend exercises to help build strength and flexibility in your knee. You will normally have a follow-up appointment after six weeks to check your knee is healing properly.

Knee arthroscopy is less invasive than conventional surgical techniques, resulting in less tissue damage, faster healing time, less pain and a lower risk of infection. The technique is not suitable for everyone, however.

Evidence shows that it does not have a significant impact on osteoarthritis or other degenerative conditions. It can be helpful in diagnosing and treating certain conditions including damaged cartilage, persistent joint pain or stiffness, fluid build-up or floating fragments of cartilage or bone.

Knee arthroscopy is a routine procedure, however, as with all surgery, there are some risks. These include:

  • Infection inside the knee – you should seek urgent medical help if you develop a fever or increasing redness or swelling around the site of your surgery. You may need a course of antibiotics or, in the case of severe infection, removal of the implant until the infection has cleared.
  • Blood clots in the veins of the leg or the lungs.
  • Nerve or tissue damage.
  • Chronic stiffness.

Knee arthroscopy is used successfully to treat a wide range of knee problems, as outlined above. Depending what is causing the pain you may experience a reduction in pain or relief from pain. If your knee has been badly damaged by osteoarthritis or other degenerative conditions you may not experience significant pain relief from knee arthroscopy.

Whatever your age, our expertise can help you feel healthy, active and pain-free again.