Knee arthroscopy: Benefits, preparation, and recovery
Knee arthroscopy is a procedure that involves a surgeon investigating and correcting problems with a small tool called an arthroscope. It is a less invasive method of surgery used to both diagnose and treat issues in the joints.
The arthroscope has a camera attached, and this allows doctors to inspect the joint for damage. The procedure requires very small cuts in the skin, which gives arthroscopy some advantages over more invasive surgeries.
Knee arthroscopy surgery has risen to popularity because it usually requires shorter recovery times. The procedure typically takes less than 1 hour, and serious complications are uncommon.
In this article, learn more about what to expect from knee arthroscopy.
Knee arthroscopy is less invasive than open forms of surgery. A surgeon can diagnose issues and operate using a very small tool, an arthroscope, which they pass through an incision in the skin.
Knee arthroscopy surgery may be helpful in diagnosing a range of problems, including:
- persistent joint pain and stiffness
- damaged cartilage
- floating fragments of bone or cartilage
- a buildup of fluid, which must be drained
In most of these cases, arthroscopy is all that is needed. People may choose it instead of other surgical procedures because arthroscopy often involves:
- less tissue damage
- a faster healing time
- fewer stitches
- less pain after the procedure
- a lower risk of infection, because smaller incisions are made
However, arthroscopy may not be for everyone. There is little evidence that people with degenerative diseases or osteoarthritis can benefit from knee arthroscopy.
Many doctors will recommend a tailored preparation plan, which may include gentle exercises.
It is important for a person taking any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications to discuss them with the doctor. An individual may need to stop taking some medications ahead of the surgery. This may even include common OTC medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil).
A person may need to stop eating up to 12 hours before the procedure, especially if they will be general anesthesia. A doctor should provide plenty of information about what a person is allowed to eat or drink.
Some doctors prescribe pain medication in advance. A person should fill this prescription before the surgery so that they will be prepared for recovery.
The type of anesthetic used to numb pain will depend on the extent of the arthroscopy.
A doctor may inject a local anesthetic to numb the affected knee only. If both knees are affected, the doctor may use a regional anesthetic to numb the person from the waist down.
In some cases, doctors will use a general anesthetic. In this case, the person will be completely asleep during the procedure.
If the person is awake, they may be allowed to watch the procedure on a monitor. This is entirely optional, and some people may not be comfortable viewing this.
The procedure starts with a few small cuts in the knee. Surgeons use a pump to push saline solution into the area. This will expand the knee, making it easier for the doctors to see their work.
After the knee is expanded, the surgeons insert the arthroscope. The attached camera allows the surgeons to explore the area and identify any problems. They may confirm earlier diagnoses, and they may take pictures.
If the problem can be fixed with arthroscopy, the surgeons will insert small tools through the arthroscope and use them to correct the issue.
After the problem is fixed, the surgeons will remove the tools, use the pump to drain the saline from the knee, and stitch up the incisions.
In many cases, the procedure takes less than 1 hour.
Like any surgery, knee arthroscopy poses some risks, though serious complications are uncommon.
A person has an increased risk of infection and excessive bleeding during and after the surgery.
The use of anesthesia also comes with risks. In some people, it may cause allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.
Some risks are specific to knee arthroscopy. They include:
- chronic stiffness in the knee
- accidental damage to tissues and nerves
- infection inside the knee
- bleeding in the joints
- blood clots
These risks are uncommon, and most people recover without incident.