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Knee arthroscopy (also called keyhole knee surgery) allows your surgeon to see inside your knee joint using a camera inserted through small cuts in the skin.

Knee arthroscopy is a surgical technique that uses a minimally invasive (keyhole) approach to diagnose and treat problems in the knee joint. A special camera, called an arthroscope, allows the surgeon to reliably inspect the knee joint and, with specialist instruments, perform a number of different treatments.

Your Nuffield Health surgeon can diagnose problems such as torn cartilage, ligament damage and arthritis by carrying out knee arthroscopy surgery.

What treatments can be performed with knee arthroscopy?

There are several treatments that can be performed using knee arthroscopy, including:

  • Tears of the meniscus, such as meniscal repair or partial meniscectomy
  • Injuries of the cartilage, such as microfracture or chondroplasty
  • Ligament reconstructions, such as for the anterior cruciate ligament, or to help remove a loose body (usually a piece of cartilage from a previous injury).

Your surgeon will use specialist instruments to perform the necessary treatment through this keyhole approach, having first confirmed the diagnosis by thoroughly examining the joint using the arthroscope.

What happens during knee arthroscopy?

  • Knee arthroscopy is usually done under general anaesthetic
  • The operation usually takes between half an hour and three-quarters of an hour
  • Your surgeon will make 2 or 3 small incisions and insert a tiny camera to examine the inside of your knee
  • They will wash out any loose material caused by wear of the joint surfaces
  • It is usually possible for your surgeon to trim or repair a torn cartilage without needing to make a larger cut.

After the knee operation

  • Once your knee arthroscopy operation is over, you’ll be taken to the recovery room
  • Here you will wake from the anaesthetic
  • Your wounds, blood pressure and pulse will be checked carefully
  • You should be able to go home the same day as your operation
  • You won’t be able to drive, so you will need to arrange for someone to take you home from hospital once discharged.

How soon will I recover from knee arthroscopy surgery?

  • Depending on the level of repair done the arthroscopy procedure causes very little tissue damage
  • Most patients recovery fairly quickly
  • Your knee will be swollen and sore for the first week following your arthroscopy
  • Most patients return to normal activity levels within 2 - 3 weeks
  • Be sure and discuss any concerns regarding your recovery with your orthopaedic surgeon.

Most people make a good recovery and return to normal activities following knee arthroscopy. As with any surgery there can be complications:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (incision)
  • Scarring
  • Blood clots (DVT - deep vein thrombosis)
  • Difficulty passing urine.

Specific complications of knee arthroscopy might include:

  • Damage to the nerves around the knee
  • Developing a lump under the wounds
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the knee.

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