What Is Knee Arthroscopy?
Knee arthroscopy is a surgical technique that can diagnose and treat problems in the knee joint. During the procedure, your surgeon will make a very small incision and insert a tiny camera — called an arthroscope — into your knee. This allows them to view the inside of the joint on a screen. The surgeon can then investigate a problem with the knee and, if necessary, correct the issue using small instruments within the arthroscope.
Arthroscopy diagnoses several knee problems, such as a torn meniscus or a misaligned patella (kneecap). It can also repair the ligaments of the joint. There are limited risks to the procedure and the outlook is good for most patients. Your recovery time and prognosis will depend on the severity of the knee problem and the complexity of the required procedure.
Three different types of pain relief (anesthesia) may be used for knee arthroscopy surgery:
Local anesthesia. Your knee may be numbed with pain medicine. You may also be given medicines that relax you. You will stay awake.
Spinal anesthesia. This is also called regional anesthesia. The pain medicine is injected into a space in your spine. You will be awake but will not be able to feel anything below your waist.
General anesthesia. You will be asleep and pain-free.
Regional nerve block (femoral or adductor canal block). This is another type of regional anesthesia. The pain medicine is injected around the nerve in your groin. You will be asleep during the operation. This type of anesthesia will block out pain so that you need less general anesthesia.
Why Do I Need Knee Arthroscopy?
Your doctor may recommend that you undergo a knee arthroscopy if you’re experiencing knee pain. Your doctor might have already diagnosed the condition causing your pain, or they may order the arthroscopy to help find a diagnosis. In either case, an arthroscopy is a useful way for doctors to confirm the source of knee pain and treat the problem.
Arthroscopic surgery can diagnose and treat knee injuries, including:
- Torn anterior or posterior cruciate ligaments
- Torn meniscus (the cartilage between the bones in the knee)
- Patella that’s out of position
- Pieces of torn cartilage that are loose in the joint
- Removal of a Baker’s cyst
- Fractures in the knee bones
- Swollen synovium (the lining in the joint)
How Do I Prepare for Knee Arthroscopy?
Your doctor or surgeon will advise you how to prepare for your surgery. Be sure to tell them about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or supplements that you’re currently taking. You may need to stop taking certain medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, for weeks or days before the procedure.
You must also refrain from eating or drinking for six to 12 hours before the surgery. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe you a pain medication for any discomfort you experience after the surgery. You should fill this prescription ahead of time so that you have it ready after the procedure.
What Is Recovery Like After a Knee Arthroscopy?
This surgery isn’t very invasive. For most people, the procedure takes less than an hour depending on the specific procedure. You will likely go home on the same day for recovery. You should use an ice pack on your knee and a dressing. The ice will help reduce swelling and minimize your pain.
At home, you should have someone look after you, at least for the first day. Try to keep your leg elevated and put ice on it for a day or two to reduce swelling and pain. You’ll also need to change your dressing. Your doctor or surgeon will tell you when to do these things and for how long. You will probably need to see your surgeon for a follow-up appointment a few days after the procedure.
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