What is Knee Arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is described as a “keyhole” operation that is employed to look inside and treat the joints, particularly the knee joint. The operation is performed by means of very small incisions in the skin, with the use of a narrow telescope (arthroscope) connected to a video camera.

Effects of Knee Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy is done to diagnose and treat problems such as torn meniscal cartilage, loose fragments of bone or cartilage, and even damaged joint surfaces or softening of the articular cartilage known as chondromalacia. This procedure is also effective in treating inflammation of the synovial membrane, such as rheumatoid or gouty arthritis; abnormal alignment or instability of the kneecap; and torn ligaments including the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments.

Candidates for Knee Arthroscopy

If you are experiencing signs such as swelling, persistent pain, catching, giving-way, and loss of confidence in your knee, you may be a candidate for knee arthroscopy. You may especially benefit from this procedure when other treatments such as the regular use of medications, knee supports, and physical therapy have offered the least or no improvement at all. Most of the patients for arthroscopies are between the ages of 20 and 60. On the contrary, patients younger than 10 years and older than 80 years have benefited from the procedure as well.

Your Consultation

Upon deciding on undergoing arthroscopy, you may be requested to go through a comprehensive physical examination with your physician to evaluate your health and to rule out any conditions that might impede your surgery.

Also, prior to surgery, you should inform your orthopedic surgeon about any medications that you are taking. You will be advised which medications you should discontinue taking prior to surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon may also request tests such as blood samples or a cardiogram in preparation for your procedure.

The Knee Arthroscopy Procedure

Through knee arthroscopy, an orthopedic surgeon is able to diagnose and cure knee disorders by giving a clear view of the inside of the knee with small incisions, making use of a pencil-sized instrument called an arthroscope. The scope is comprised of optic fibers that transmit an image of your knee through a small camera to a television monitor. The TV image makes it easier for the surgeon to carefully examine the interior of your knee and verify the source of your problem. During the arthroscopy, the surgeon can insert surgical instruments through other small incisions in your knee to remove or repair damaged tissues.

Recovery

The recovery period from knee arthroscopy is much faster compared to recovery from traditional open knee surgery. You will be able to leave the hospital with a dressing protecting your knee and this dressing may be removed the day after surgery. You may shower, but you must keep the water away from the incisions. Do not soak in a tub. Keep your incisions clean and dry.

In general, you can walk without being assisted after most arthroscopic surgeries, but your orthopedic surgeon may recommend you to use crutches, a cane, or a walker for a period of time after surgery. Gradually, you can put more weight on your leg as your discomfort settles down and as you recuperate strength in your knee. Your surgeon may permit you to drive after a week.

Risks

Infection, blood clots, and an accumulation of blood in the knee are potential post-operative problems with knee arthroscopy. These rarely arise and are just secondary and treatable.

FAQs

What are the advantages of arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is useful in investigating knee problems, treating conditions such as arthritis and inflammation, obtaining small samples of tissue, or restoring damage to tissues and cartilage. This procedure can be completed as a day case, without the need for an overnight stay in the hospital.

How is arthroscopic surgery performed?

When a knee arthroscopy is performed, a camera is inserted into the joint by creating a small incision (about one centimeter). The arthroscopic surgery camera is connected to a fiberoptic light source and displays a picture of the inside of the joint on a television monitor. The surgeon employs water under pressure to “inflate” the knee, allowing increased maneuverability and to get rid of any debris. Additional other incisions are made to insert instruments that can cure the main problem. One example is that a shaver can be inserted to trim the edges of a meniscus tear.

What is the recovery time after arthroscopy?

Recovery time after arthroscopy depends on findings and the procedures done. To speed up recovery and prevent further knee joint function, a specific activity and rehabilitation program may be recommended. Some patients go back to work or school or continue daily activities within a few days. Athletes and others who are in good physical condition often return to athletic activities within a few weeks, although occasionally, it takes a number of weeks to fully recover. It is important to note that people who have knee arthroscopy can have many diverse problems, so each patient’s recovery time will differ from another.

Are there specific complications in this procedure?

Complications from arthroscopy may include accidental damage to the inside of the joint or a loss of feeling in the skin over the knee. There may also be a rare chance of developing a blood clot in the veins of one of the legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT). To help avoid this, most people are provided a compression stocking to wear on the unoperated leg throughout the operation. On the other hand, an injection of anti-coagulant medication may be given. You may also develop keloid scars after arthroscopy. An insignificant percentage of people have an inherited tendency to form this type of scar, which are unusually red and raised.

What should I expect after surgery?

While arthroscopy can be utilized to cure many problems, you may have some restrictions in doing some activities even after recovery. The result of your surgery will often be determined by the extent of injury or damage obtained in your knee. You may be recommended to find a low-impact substitute form of exercise. Oftentimes, an intercollegiate or professional athlete sustains identical injury as a weekend recreational athlete, but the possibility for recovery may be enhanced by the over-development of knee muscles. Physical exercise and rehabilitation will play a significant role in your final outcome. Furthermore, a formal physical therapy program may add something to your final result.