Knee arthroscopy is a surgical technique that allows surgeons to view the knee joint without making a large incision in the skin. Knee arthroscopy is used to treat a wide variety of conditions.
The knee joint is made up of the femur, tibia and patella (knee cap). All these bones are lined with articular (surface) cartilage. This articular cartilage acts as a shock absorber and allows a smooth low friction surface for the bones that make up the knee. Other important structures of the knee include:
- Meniscus: Between the tibia and femur lie two floating cartilages called menisci. The medial (inner) meniscus and the lateral (outer) meniscus rest on the tibial surface cartilage and are mobile. The menisci also act as shock absorbers and stabilizers.
- Ligaments: The knee is stabilized by ligaments that are both in and outside the joint. The medial and lateral collateral ligaments support the knee from excessive side-to-side movement. The (internal) anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments support the knee from buckling and giving way.
- Synovium: The knee joint is surrounded by a capsule (envelope) that produces a small amount of synovial (lubrication) fluid to help with smooth motion.
What to Expect
Knee arthroscopy is commonly performed under general anesthesia. Occasionally, the anesthesiologist will also perform a nerve block on the injured leg to help with pain management following surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision called a portal. An arthroscope, a small fiber optic high resolution camera, is then inserted into the joint. The camera displays images of the hip on a video screen. Other portals or small incisions can be made in order to use small surgical instruments and access the entirety of the knee joint.
When is Knee Arthroscopy recommended?
A knee arthroscopy can help to diagnose and treat many conditions. Common indications for knee arthroscopy procedures include:
- Meniscus Tears- the cartilage is repair or trimmed to a stable rim
- Torn surface (articular) cartilage
- Removal of loose bodies (cartilage or bone that has broken off) and cysts
- Anterior or Posterior Cruciate ligament tears
- Patello-femoral (knee-cap) disorders
- Washout of infected knees
- General diagnostic purpose
Recovery and Risks
While recovery from knee arthroscopy is faster than recovery from traditional open knee surgery, the recovery time will ultimately depend on the initial injury or condition for which the procedure was performed. The procedure is often done at an outpatient surgery center, meaning the patient may go home on the same day. You may also be given crutches and a knee brace on the day of surgery. Many patients also require physical therapy to aid in the post operative rehabilitation of the knee.
The risks and complications of arthroscopic knee surgery are extremely small but may include bleeding, infection, injury to the blood vessels and nerves around the knee joint. There is also risk of DVT, knee stiffness. There is the possibility of continued pain following surgery. In general arthroscopic surgery does not improve knees that have well established osteoarthritis.