Knee Arthroscopy Surgery and Recovery Overview

Knee arthroscopy is a very effective tool for treating knee problems; over four million arthroscopies are performed worldwide each year. Arthroscopy is a common surgical procedure that is performed to diagnose and/or treat joint abnormalities, using a small camera instrument about the size of a pencil, called an arthroscope.  Surgeons are able to get a clear view of the inside of the knee in order to diagnose and treat knee problems, including many non-inflammatory, inflammatory and infectious types of arthritis, as well as a number of injuries within the joint.

Dr. Andrew Bulczynski explains the benefits and best practices of knee arthroscopy.

Arthroscopic knee surgery causes less tissue trauma, less pain and allows for a quicker recovery than a traditional open knee surgery.  Typically an arthroscope is used to feel, repair or remove damaged tissue by examining the interior of the joint.  The camera is inserted through one of the two or three small incisions the surgeon makes around the knee and viewed on a television monitor.  The monitor will allow the surgeon to see the knee joint in great detail and diagnose the problem.

Knee arthroscopy surgery is usually done in an outpatient setting and is essentially a low blood loss procedure with generally few complications, depending on the patient’s health.  The surgeon starts with a few small incisions around the knee, and then fills the knee joint with a sterile solution to rinse away cloudy fluid.  This is done so there is nothing impeding the view of the knee joint.

Knee Arthroscopy Video

Once the surgeon has a clear view, he or she will examine the knee joint and diagnose the source of pain by guiding the arthroscope inside the joint and viewing it on the monitor.  If the surgeon sees that a repair, removal, or suture is needed, tiny instruments, like scissors, lasers, or motorized shavers, will be inserted into the knee joint through another small incision.

An arthroscopy can be used in cases with torn meniscus, torn or damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), swollen synovium (lining of the joint), a kneecap that is out of position, removal of a Baker’s cyst, fractured knee, or broken cartilage.  Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis can also have an arthroscopy to remove inflamed joint tissue (synovectomy).

Once the repair or removal of damaged tissue is done, the surgeon will either use steri-strips or a stitch to close the incisions.  Most patients go home to begin their knee arthroscopy recovery within a few hours of the procedure.

While arthroscopic knee surgery recovery is quicker than traditional open knee surgery, it is still important to follow the surgeon’s instructions carefully.  After surgery, patients need to rest and elevate the joint, as well as apply ice packs to reduce pain and swelling, in order to speed up knee arthroscopy recovery time.