Knee arthroscopy surgery is a less invasive, more commonly used medical procedure used for treatment of knee injuries. It involves uses a small camera (about the size of a pencil) to examine the knee, diagnose the issue, and then remove or repair the damaged tissues as needed.
Unlike a full joint operation, knee arthroscopy is performed through a small incision into the joint. During this procedure, the orthopedic surgeon can fix several knee-related problems, such as torn tissue or ligaments, and bone wear. The range goes from minor procedures such as bone surface smoothening to severe injuries such as knee alignment or tissue grafting. It is almost always performed on an outpatient basis, and anesthesia can be local, regional, or general depending on the exact procedure being performed.
Who is a candidate?
Patients with knee pain, or limited knee function, may be candidates for knee arthroscopy. Patients in their 30s and 40s who have knee pain caused by torn cartilage or ligaments are good candidates for arthroscopy.
Common reasons for knee arthroscopy include:
- Meniscal tears
- Damage to the articular (lining) cartilage of the joint
- Location of loose bodies (small fragments of cartilage or bone) within the knee
- Identification, examination and/or reconstruction of the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (a pair of joints crossed like an X)
- Assessment of the knee joint’s lining membrane
- Examination of the patello-femoral (knee cap) joint for any abnormalities in motion or misalignment
- Treatment of mild knee arthritis
Who is not a candidate?
Candidates who have severe knee osteoarthritis are not good candidates for arthroscopy, as they may require joint replacement.
Like other surgeries, knee arthroscopy requires a complete physical examination with your primary care provider before surgery. You should inform your orthopedic surgeon of any medications or supplements you take, and comply with certain general surgery procedures such as preoperative blood testing and possible cessation of smoking or use of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs one week prior. You will likely be asked to stop eating or drinking the night before the surgery.
You will be able to recover from knee arthroscopy faster than you would for traditional joint surgery. Immediately after your procedure, your doctor will prescribe pain relief medication and possibly, a blood thinner (to lessen the risk of blood clots). In the first few days after surgery, keep your leg elevated and apply ice to relieve swelling and prevent further inflammation. Ensure your incisions are kept clean and dry, and follow your surgeon’s instructions in regards to bathing, changing the dressing, and follow-up visits.
You can expect to return to normal activities in 2-3 weeks. Most patients use crutches for the first few weeks to avoid excessive pressure to the joint. A formal physical therapy program or a regimen of exercises to strengthen your knee will help restore motion and strengthen your leg and knee muscles.
As with any surgery, there are risks of complications related to infection or adverse reactions to anesthesia. Other known complications include accumulation of blood in the knee and blood clotting. However, these risks are generally minor and treatable.
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