Arthroscopy of the Knee

The knee joint is vulnerable to a variety of injuries. Patients who have suffered a torn meniscus, injured a ligament, torn a piece of articular cartilage, injured and created misalignment of the patella or other knee injury, may be recommended arthroscopic knee surgery.   Knee arthroscopy is a less-invasive alternative to traditional open knee surgery. Knee arthroscopy is performed making small cuts on your knee and inserting a small camera, light source, and very small surgical tools through a port into your knee. Knee arthroscopy is generally an outpatient procedure and may be performed under local, spinal, or general anesthesia. Your anesthesiologist will decide the best method for you depending on your age and health condition.

Once taken to the operating room, anesthetized, and properly positioned; the surgeon makes two or three small incisions around the knee.  A sterile saline solution is injected into the knee to provide a clear view and more room for the surgeon to work.  An arthroscope, a narrow tube with a tiny video camera on the end, is inserted through one of the incisions to view the knee joint. The structures inside the knee are visible to the surgeon on a video monitor in the operating room.  The surgeon examines the structures inside the knee joint to assess and confirm the cause of the problem that may have been identified on MRI imaging.

Once a diagnosis is made, surgical instruments such as scissors, motorized shavers, or lasers are inserted through another small incision, and the repair is performed based on the diagnosis.  The repair procedure may include removal or repair of a torn meniscus, reconstruction or repair of a torn cruciate ligament, removal of small torn pieces of articular cartilage, removal of loose fragments of bones, removal of inflamed synovial tissue, or realignment of the patella. Making small holes or micro fractures near the damaged cartilage to stimulate cartilage growth.  After the repair, the knee joint is carefully examined for bleeding or any other damage.  The saline is then drained from the knee joint.  Finally, the incisions are closed with sutures or steri-strips, and the knee is covered with a sterile dressing.

Knee arthroscopy can take 45 minutes to over 2 hours dependent upon the extent and complexity of the injury. Most patients are discharged the same day after knee arthroscopy. Recovery after the surgery depends on the type of repair procedure performed. Recovery from simple procedures is often fast. However, recovery from complicated procedures takes a little longer. Recovery from knee arthroscopy is much faster than that from an open knee surgery.  Pain medicines are prescribed to manage pain. Crutches or a knee brace may be recommended for several weeks. A rehabilitation program may also be advised for a successful recovery. Therapeutic exercises are important to restore full motion and strengthen the muscles of the leg and knee.