Knee arthroscopy

What is a knee arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is a surgical procedure which is used for both the diagnosis and treatment of knee joint issues. It is a minimally invasive technique which requires a small incision to be made, through which the arthroscope (a tiny camera), can be inserted into the knee. This allows the surgeon to investigate a knee problem and make corrections using small surgical implements.

Am I a suitable candidate for a knee arthroscopy?

In general, the main reason for undergoing a knee arthroscopy is knee pain and mechanical symptoms like clicking, locking or giving way. Your condition may have already been diagnosed by a doctor, or the knee arthroscopy might be being used to further confirm the diagnosis and treat the symptoms to promote joint function.

You may be a good candidate for knee arthroscopy if you have suffered a knee injury such as torn meniscus (which is the cartilage between the knee bones); loose torn cartilage, ligament or bone pieces in the joint; knee bone fractures; patella (knee cap) problems; swollen synovium (which is the joint lining); or treatment of knee infection.

How does a knee arthroscopy work?

In advance of the procedure, your doctor will advise you on preparation and may ask you to stop taking any prescriptions or supplements which you are using. You would typically avoid drinking or eating for six to 12 hours before the surgery.

The procedure itself will involve the administration of an anaesthetic, which could include regional anaesthetic to numb the lower half of the body, or general anaesthetic which will put you to sleep.

Starting the procedure, the surgeon will usually make a couple of small incisions in the knee. Saline is usually pumped in to expand the knee, which allows the surgeon to have a better view of the joint's interior. Once the arthroscope (camera) is inserted, the surgeon can see the footage on a monitor as the device moves around. Once the surgeon has located the problem area, they may use tiny tools to correct the issue, before the saline is drained the incisions are closed using stitches.

Recovery from knee arthroscopy

Because knee arthroscopy is minimally invasive, it takes less than an hour and typically does not require an overnight stay in hospital. Most patients are allowed to mobilise with full weight bearing on the operated leg as soon as they recover from their anaesthetic. You can use an ice pack on your knee during the recovery period to relieve pain and reduce swelling. It will be helpful to have someone - a partner, family member or friend - look after you for the first day, as your leg should be kept elevated as much as possible. Your doctor can also advise you on when and how to change your dressing.

You will be seen by the physiotherapist before and after the procedure on the day of surgery and usually be given an exercise programme as part of your rehabilitation, in order to help your knee to recover. This is important to build strength and gradually improve range of motion.

Six weeks after the procedure, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled so the doctor can check on the progress of your recovery. There is an overwhelmingly positive outlook for people undergoing this procedure.

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