What is arthroscopy of the knee?
This is where 'keyhole surgery' is used to look inside the knee joint. Small cuts are made around the knee, and narrow tubes are passed into the joint. One of these has a camera attached, the other tube allows special instruments to be passed into the joint to perform any needed surgery.
Why would I need knee arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy allows the surgeon to look inside the knee and diagnose any problems you may have. Once any problems have been identified, the surgeon may also be able to treat you at the same time.
Certain scans, such as MRI, may also be able to diagnose your problem, but arthroscopy may then be needed to treat the problem.
Arthroscopy may be used to diagnose conditions such as arthritis, torn cartilage, or ligament damage.
What happens after the operation?
Your physiotherapist will help you to mobilise and strengthen the knee, and you may need crutches for a couple of weeks. Your knee may be swollen and tender for about a week.
You will usually be able to go home the same day, but this may vary depending on any treatment you had at the time. Your specialist and physiotherapist will be able to guide you as to how much exercise you can do. You should check with your specialist and insurance company before starting to drive again.
You will have the best chance of a successful outcome if you follow the advice of the physiotherapist and have a healthy body weight.
What are the risks of knee arthroscopy?
Infection - this may need antibiotics or further surgery to wash out the knee.
Damage to nerves - this is quite uncommon, but can lead to numbness or weakness in the leg or foot.
Blood clots in the legs - clots in the calf (deep vein thrombosis / DVT) occurs in about 1 in 650 arthroscopies. These can usually be treated with medication, but a DVT can (rarely) move to the lungs. This can cause breathing difficulty, or even be life threatening.
Stiffness - it is quite common to have a degree of stiffness in the knee, which can often be improved with physiotherapy.
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You may also be interested to read our articles on Cruciate ligament reconstruction or knee replacement
Read an account of a patient's Real Experience of knee arthroscopy
Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.
The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer