Knee Arthroscopy

Knee arthroscopy is also known as “keyhole surgery” of the knee joint.  Advances in technology enable surgeons to perform many surgical procedures within the knee, treating torn menisci, damage to the cruciate ligaments and repairing the articular cartilage.  The operation can be performed under local anaesthetic but for longer, more complex procedures, a general anaesthetic is used.  In most cases, the operation will be performed as a day case procedure. 

Knee arthroscopy requires two or three 1 cm long incisions around the knee, although more incisions may be required for more complex procedures.   The knee is filled with fluid and a fibreoptic telescope attached to a digital video camera is inserted into the knee joint to examine the joint surfaces, the menisci, the lining of the knee joint and he cruciate ligaments.  The surgeon will pass instruments into the knee and will operate within the knee joint using the image display on a television screen.  When the operation is finished, the fluid is drained from the knee joint and a dressing is placed over the wounds.  Some surgeons prefer to suture the wounds, but others do not. 

Before you go home, you will be given advice about removing the dressing applied to your knee and apply ice and doing exercises. It is very important to keep the muscles working, so these exercises are essential for an uneventful recovery from surgery.

RWN’s view

Knee arthroscopy is a valuable surgical technique for the treatment of knee problems.  I have been involved in the development of techniques of knee arthroscopy for over 25 years, particularly for reconstructing damaged knee ligaments.  My own preference is not to suture the wounds and to use a pressure dressing bandage for 24 hours.  I advise ice on the knee for 20 minutes three to four times a day for the first two days after the operation.   You can walk straightaway after knee arthroscopy but for the first three to four days, it is advisable not to walk excessively or to stand for long periods, which may cause the knee to swell.  Most importantly of all is to do the exercises shown in the instruction sheet given to you by the physiotherapist.   These exercises prevent the quadriceps muscles on the front of your thigh from weakening, which can delay the recovery from knee surgery.