Knee arthroscopy surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that addresses cartilage and ligament injuries.
Knee arthroscopies have been proven to reduce knee pain and increase overall knee function without a total knee replacement surgery.
Where other knee surgeries involve the removal and replacement of degenerative knee surfaces with an artificial joint, knee arthroscopy surgery does not involve prosthetics.
An overview of knee arthroscopy surgery
Knee arthroscopy is a common technique for treating pain and inflammation that is caused by a variety of conditions.
If patients do not respond to more conservative treatments like medication, cortisone injections, low-impact activity or rest, then a doctor may recommend a knee arthroscopy to officially diagnose the problem.
Due to advancements in the medical field, knee arthroscopy is typically performed as an outpatient procedure. With small incisions made in the side of the knee, surgeons then insert a camera, or arthroscope, into the knee that allows them to easily access the joint.
This type of procedure allows surgeons to see into the knee without making large incisions.
The minimal nature of knee arthroscopy surgery leads to quicker recovery times and less potential complications, as compared to total knee replacement surgery.
Arthroscopy is used to diagnose knee problems by giving doctors a clear insight into the knee joint with just a few small, minimally invasive incisions in your skin. According to Dr. Alexander, “The success rate for knee arthroscopy surgery is close to 100%. However, patients with significant arthritis should not undergo arthroscopy.”
What does knee arthroscopy surgery diagnose and treat?
Knee arthroscopy surgery is highly effective in diagnosing and treating the following:
Meniscal tears and injuries
As one of the most common knee injuries, people typically tear their meniscus from twisting or rotating their knee.
A torn meniscus is usually characterized by knee pain, followed by swelling, limited range of motion, and knee locking/catching.
While an MRI will typically diagnose the issue at hand, knee arthroscopy surgery can both repair and diagnose any additional complications that arise.
Your knee is made up of four major ligaments that help keep the joint stable and functioning at its best. The following injuries can be treated with a knee arthroscopy:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL)
- Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)
Knee arthroscopy surgery helps patients with kneecap fractures regain range of motion by repairing injured ligaments and removing broken cartilage.
How knee arthroscopy surgery works
Knee arthroscopy usually begins with the surgeon administering either a local anesthetic (numbs your knee), regional anesthetic (numbs your waist-down) or general anesthetic (induces sleep) to minimize pain.
The surgeon will then position your leg to keep the injured knee in traction.
With an outpatient knee arthroscopy procedure, you will return home the same day. The surgery can take anywhere from 60 minutes to two and a half hours to complete, based on the severity of your knee damage or any special conditions you have.
Is knee arthroscopy considered major surgery?
While knee arthroscopy is not as invasive as total knee replacement, it is considered a major procedure because it does still involve small incisions to treat injuries or defects. or increase range of motion.
If your doctor repaired any damaged knee cartilage or tissue following your diagnosis, your healing time and recovery plan may be more intensive.
Recovery after knee arthroscopy surgery
When discussing surgery with your doctor, be sure to make a recovery plan. Knee arthroscopy surgery is typically completed in less than an hour, but your doctor may recommend staying in the recovery room for another hour or two before you are discharged and sent home.
You will need someone to drive you home after surgery and to stay with you for at least one night so you can continue to rest.
How long does the pain last?
Ultimately, this depends on the condition your knee was in prior to undergoing the knee arthroscopy procedure. The majority of knee arthroscopy patients can bear weight on their knees and walk somewhat free of pain about six to eight weeks after their procedure.
In the first few days and weeks, you may notice pain in your knee, thigh, lower legs, and ankles. Be sure to keep an eye on your incision and practice keeping it clean to ensure it doesn’t get infected.
Signs of infection include:
- Increased pain
What activities should I avoid after surgery?
When you make a recovery plan with your doctor, they will inform you of any and all activities to refrain from.
While you may experience increased range of motion as the pain in your knee decreases, there are still a number of activities you should avoid, like the following:
- Excessive bending of the knee
- Prolonged activity, like squats, speed walking, running and jumping
- Heavy lifting
How can I stay comfortable post-op?
- Rest: Refrain from overworking your knee. Get plenty of rest, especially when you feel tired. The more sleep you get, the quicker your body will recover.
- Keep your leg elevated: Discomfort is natural, but using pillows to keep your leg and ankle raised above your heart will speed healing and decrease your risk of reinjuring your knee.
- Clean your incisions: As knee arthroscopy surgery typically involves incisions, it is imperative to your health that you keep the site(s) clean and dry.
- Drink fluids: Consider drinking more fluids than you typically would, due to bodily trauma, dehydration and the effects of pain relievers, which can cause stomach irritation and constipation.
- Take medicines only as directed: Be sure to communicate with your doctor about any and all medications you are taking. You may be directed to discontinue use of some or all medications while taking prescription or over-the-counter pain medication. Be sure to only take medication as directed by your doctor.
Knee arthroscopy surgery at Alexander Orthopaedics
An outpatient knee arthroscopy procedure can help improve your quality of life and help you avoid a long hospital stay.
Our outpatient orthopedic surgery centers and expert surgeons provide the care you need before, during, and after surgery.