A knee arthroscopy is a surgical procedure where an orthopedic surgeon or specialist uses an arthroscope to examine the inside of the knee joint. This procedure is minimally invasive and offers a variety of benefits that a traditional open knee surgery cannot provide.
What is the Purpose of a Knee Arthroscopy?
Your doctor at Comprehensive Medical Care may recommend a knee arthroscopy if you experience knee pain that does not respond to non-surgical treatments, such as rest, physical therapy, medications, or anti-inflammatory injections.
With a knee arthroscopy, your doctor will be able to confirm the source of your knee pain, which will lead to an accurate diagnosis and its corresponding treatment. Some knee injuries that can be diagnosed and treated utilizing a knee arthroscopy procedure include:
- Torn anterior or posterior cruciate ligaments
- Torn meniscus
- Misaligned patella
- Knee bone fractures
- Inflamed synovial tissue
- Baker’s cyst removal
- Torn cartilage in the joint
- Knee sepsis
Knee Arthroscopy Benefits
Knee arthroscopies differ from typical knee surgeries in that they give the doctor the ability to diagnose and treat the problem without having to cut through muscles and other tissues. Since arthroscopies are significantly less invasive than open surgeries, there are many benefits associated with these procedures, such as:
- Less muscle and tissue damage
- Shorter recovery time
- Fewer stitches
- Less pain post-procedure
- Lower risk of infection since smaller incisions are made
Knee Arthroscopy Risks
Like any surgery, there are certain risks associated with knee arthroscopies. Any surgery can result in:
- Excessive bleeding
- Infection at incision site
- Allergic reaction to medications administered during the surgery
- Anesthesia-induced breathing difficulties
The risks specific to a knee arthroscopy, though rare, include:
- Formation of a blood clot in the leg
- Joint infection
- Knee stiffness
- Bleeding inside the knee joint
- Injury or damage to the knee’s cartilage, ligaments, meniscus, blood vessels, or nerves
What to Expect From Your Knee Arthroscopy
The main tool utilized in a knee arthroscopy is an arthroscope, which is a specialized kind of endoscope that is used to examine the interior of hollow structures. An arthroscope is attached to a fiber-optic video camera that may be inserted through the skin and soft tissue layers by making a very small surgical cut. After inserted, the view from the fiber-optic technology is transmitted to a high-definition video monitor.
Prior to your knee arthroscopy, you will be given a form of anesthetic based on the extent of the arthroscopy. You may receive:
- Local Anesthetic: only numbs your knee.
- Regional Anesthetic: numbs you from the waist down. Often used in cases where both the knees are affected.
- General Anesthetic: puts you completely asleep for the entirety of the procedure.
The procedure begins with a few small incisions in the knee, which are used to pump a saline solution into the area so that your knee can expand, allowing the doctors more visibility to see the joint.
Once the knee has expanded, the arthroscope enters one of the cuts. Using the fiber-optic camera, the surgeon is able to identify any problems in your knee. Once the issues in your knee have been located, the surgeon will either take pictures to confirm a diagnosis or if possible, correct the issue with small tools during the arthroscopy.
After the surgeon has repaired any problems, the saline will be drained from your knee, and the small cuts will be stitched up. In a majority of cases, the entire procedure takes less than one hour.
What to Expect From Your Knee Arthroscopy Recovery
After your knee arthroscopy procedure, you should be able to go home within one to two hours. Your recovery will be faster than a traditional open knee surgery recovery, but it is still very important to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions when you get home.
After your knee arthroscopy, it is perfectly natural to feel pain as a part of the healing process. Medications, like opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and other local anesthetics will often be prescribed for short-term pain relief post-surgery. Your doctor may also recommend taking over-the-counter drugs, like aspirin or ibuprofen to lessen the risk of blood clots.
In the initial few days after the procedure, you should keep your leg elevated as much as possible to alleviate swelling and pain. Applying ice may also be useful in managing swelling.
After surgery, your knee will be covered with a dressing. It is integral to the healing process to keep your incisions clean and dry. Make sure to listen to your surgeon’s recommendations on when to shower and bathe, and how often to change the dressing.
Most patients will need crutches or some form of assistance to stand upright following knee arthroscopy. To heal your knee properly, it is critical to listen to your surgeon’s instructions on when it is safe to put weight on your affected leg.
One of the most important steps in the recovery process is to complete your knee rehabilitation exercises. Prescribed either by your surgeon or a physical therapist, rehabilitation will be able to restore mobility and strength to the muscles in your leg and knee so that you may return to your normal function.