Knee arthroscopy explained

Knee arthroscopy is a straightforward orthopaedic procedure that can reveal a lot about the condition of your knees. Dr Dan Fick explains what it is and why you might want to consider it.

What is knee arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery that enables your orthopaedic surgeon to view your knee joint without the need for a large incision.

Dr Dan Fick says:

“We find arthroscopy a useful procedure to diagnose and treat a wide range of knee problems. The process is usually very straightforward, your time in hospital is short and you should recover quickly afterwards.”

What is knee arthroscopy used for?

As well as diagnosing knee problems, knee arthroscopy can be used to relieve painful symptoms caused by damage to the cartilage surfaces or other soft tissues surrounding the joint.

There are a number of conditions that knee arthroscopy can help with, including:

• mechanical problems such as clicking, catching or locking of the knee or the knee giving way

• reconstruction of a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or damaged PCL (posterior cruciate ligament)

• repair or partial removal of a damaged or torn meniscus (the C-shaped cartilage that sits in the joint to cushion the area between the shin bone and the thigh bone)

• removal of inflamed synovial tissue (the tissue that keeps the joint well lubricated with synovial fluid)

• trimming or reconstruction of damaged articular cartilage

• removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage, which may occur as a result of a condition such as synovial chondromatosis, in which the synovial tissue grows abnormally and produces nodules of cartilage that can break off and become loose around the joint

• treatment of knee infection

• treatment of problems affecting the kneecap (the patella).

What happens during knee arthroscopy surgery?

Dan says:

“During knee arthroscopy, I will create 2 small incisions either side of the knee and use an arthroscope (a tiny camera) to look inside your knee. If any issues are found, they can be treated using small surgical instruments inserted through the other incisions. I may repair damaged tissue, remove loose fragments, or address other knee problems as needed. It’s like joint reconditioning.”

What are the benefits?

“Because knee arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery, your recovery time will be shorter than if you had open surgery like we use for hip or knee replacements,” Dan explains.

“This results in less pain and joint stiffness so you will very quickly be able to return to doing to things you love.”

What is recovery like?

After surgery, you should be able to go home within 1–2 hours, but you should keep your leg elevated for a few hours, morning and afternoon, on the initial few days after the procedure to help control swelling and pain. 
You may need crutches for the first few days, but you should be able to return to many of your usual activities after several days off your feet. If you have had a bigger procedure, such as ligament reconstruction or meniscus repair, you may need longer before you can get back to an active lifestyle. 
For example, if you have had a meniscal repair (anchors to your meniscus), you should not flex your knee past 90 degrees and ensure you do no deep squats, and only light resistance work – nothing too strenuous –  for 6 weeks.

Dan says:

“Depending on your lifestyle and what was needed to repair your knee, you might have to make some adjustments to protect your joint against future damage, for example, switching from running to a lower-impact activity such as cycling.”

If you think knee arthroscopy could help you, contact Dr Dan Fick and the team today.