Knee arthroscopy

Arthroscopy is a common surgical procedure in which a joint (arthro-) is viewed (-scopy) using a small camera. Arthroscopy gives doctors a clear view of the inside of the knee. This helps them diagnose and treat knee problems. Technical advances have led to high definition monitors and high resolution cameras. These and other improvements have made arthroscopy a very effective tool for treating knee problems.

Surgery

Preparing for Surgery

If you decide to have knee arthroscopy you may need to attend a pre-assessment clinic run by a specialist nurse. He or she will assess you health and identify any problems that could interfere with your surgery. The specialist nurse may order preoperative tests. These may include blood counts or an ECG (electrocardiogram)

Arrival

Almost all arthroscopic knee surgery is done on a day case basis. You will likely be asked to arrive an hour or two prior to the planned operating list. You will generally be asked not to eat or drink anything from midnight the night before your surgery.

Anaesthesia

Prior to surgery you will be seen by a consultant anaesthetist. Arthroscopy can be performed under regional or general anaesthesia.

Regional anaesthesia numbs you below your waist

General anaesthesia puts you to sleep

The anaesthetist will help you decide which method is best for you. Most commonly patients undergo a short day case general anaesthetic for this procedure.

Procedure

Arthroscopy is usually done through two small incisions. During the procedure your orthopaedic surgeon inserts the arthroscope (a small camera instrument about the size of a pencil) into your knee joint. On the monitor your surgeon can see the structures of the knee in great detail. Your surgeon can use arthroscopy to assess, repair or remove damaged tissue. A range of very fine instruments are available for this purpose.

Arthroscopy for the knee is most commonly used for:

Removal or repair of torn meniscal cartilage

  • Trimming of torn pieces of articular cartilage
  • Removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage
  • Removal of inflamed synovial tissue
  • Repairing damaged areas of the joint surface

Your surgeon will usually close your incisions with steristrips and cover them with a small shower proof dressing.

Recovery

You will be seen by a physiotherapist after your operation. He or she will go through with you a number of exercises to assist your recovery. A formal physiotherapy program is not generally required. Most patients will be able to walk independently and fully weight bear after this procedure. You should be able to go home about two hours after your arthroscopy. You should have someone to drive you home.Try and take things easy for the first few days after the operation to allow the discomfort and swelling to settle. Most people would plan to take about a week off work. Typically patients can return to driving a couple of days to a couple of weeks following the procedure. Full recovery from the arthroscopy may take up to six weeks.

Follow up

You will normally be reviewed in the out-patient clinic about two weeks after surgery. Your surgeon will check your recovery and assess healing of the incisions. The nature and outcome of your procedure will be discussed and if any further management is required this will be arranged.

Complications

As with any surgery there are risks associated with knee arthroscopy. These occur very infrequently but may include:

  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding or accumulation of blood in the knee

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