Knee Arthroscopy

What is knee arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is knee surgery using an arthroscope. It is used to diagnose and treat many knee conditions.

An arthroscope is a tiny camera that is inserted into a joint through a small incision (‘arthro’ means joint and ‘scope’ refers to seeing). The camera transmits an image onto a large screen, which allows your surgeon to see the inside of the joint and then use tiny instruments (inserted through other small incisions) to make necessary repairs.

Arthroscopy is often called keyhole or minimally invasive surgery because it only requires small incisions. Compared to open surgery, arthroscopic procedures usually cause less pain and have shorter recovery periods.

Do I need knee arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy may be recommended if you have a painful knee condition that has not or is unlikely to respond to conservative treatment (eg non-drug therapy such as physiotherapy and medications such as anti-inflammatories).

Knee conditions treated arthroscopically include:

  • meniscus and other cartilage tears <<link to knee conditions – meniscus tears>>
  • multi-ligament injuries
  • ACL tears<<link to sports injuries – ACL tears>>
  • Chondral injuries

Our Specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will discuss whether knee arthroscopy is suitable for your knee condition at your visit.

How does knee arthroscopy work?

Knee arthroscopy is usually done as a day procedure, which means you may be able to be go home on the same day as the surgery. If you do need to stay in hospital, it’s likely to only be for one night. We will contact you before admission to let you know how long you can expect to stay in hospital.

The procedure is done under either general anaesthesia or spinal anaesthesia (an epidural).

After your knee is cleaned and prepared for surgery, your surgeon will make a small incision (about 1 cm) through your skin into the knee joint to allow the arthroscope to be inserted.

Once the arthroscope is in the knee joint, your surgeon will then be able to see the inside of the joint on a large screen and identify any problems. Fluid flows continually through the arthroscope to keep the image clear.

With the problem or problems identified, your surgeon can then insert tiny instruments through other small incisions. With these instruments, your surgeon may remove badly damaged tissue that won’t heal and/or make repairs to other tissue.

The instruments and arthroscope are then removed and the small incisions are closed with tape or sutures. A dressing is applied to the skin to protect the wound and bandage is placed around the knee.

How long does knee arthroscopy take?

This depends on the condition being treated and the amount of work needed to repair it.

What to expect after knee arthroscopy?

In most cases, you’ll be able to go home within a few hours of the surgery. You will be able to partially bear weight on the leg and start walking straight away with crutches. Your therapists will teach you how to get around safely with crutches, give you exercises to strengthen your knee and keep it flexible. You will also be given medication to treat pain, as well as antibiotics and blood thinners.

Although you will be able to walk, someone will need to drive you home and stay with you for at least one night to help you out. You will need to try and keep your leg elevated as much as you can for the first few days.

Physiotherapy is usually recommended as part of your rehabilitation.

Complications are uncommon. They include knee stiffness, infection, blood clots and bleeding into the knee.

Knee arthroscopy timeframe

Your recovery period depends on what condition was treated and the severity of the damage that was present.

Our Specialists in Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will discuss your recovery timeframe before any procedure is performed.