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What is an arthroscopy of your knee?

An arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) allows your surgeon to see inside your knee using a camera inserted through small cuts on your skin. Your surgeon can diagnose problems such as a torn cartilage (meniscus), ligament damage and arthritis.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The aim is to confirm exactly what the problem is and for many people the problem can be treated at the same time. The benefit of keyhole surgery is less pain afterwards and, for some people, a quicker recovery.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Problems inside your knee can often be diagnosed using a magnetic scan (MRI scan) but you may then need an arthroscopy to treat the problem.

Physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen can sometimes prevent or delay the need for an arthroscopy.

Figure showing a right knee with a tear in the lateral meniscius

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.

Your surgeon will examine your knee ligaments while you are under the anaesthetic and your muscles are completely relaxed. They will insert a small camera through one or more small cuts around your knee.

Your surgeon will examine the inside of your knee for damage to the cartilages, joint surfaces and ligaments. It is usually possible for your surgeon to trim or repair a torn cartilage without needing to make a larger cut.

What complications can happen?

Some of these can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring of your skin
  • Blood clot in your leg
  • Blood clot in your lung
  • Difficulty passing urine

Specific complications of this operation

  • Damage to nerves around your knee
  • Infection in your knee joint
  • Severe pain

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

It is common for your knee to be a little swollen for a few weeks.

Walking can be uncomfortable and you may need to take painkillers to help relieve your pain.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a good recovery and can return to normal activities.

Summary

An arthroscopy allows your surgeon to diagnose and treat some common problems affecting your knee, without the need for a large cut on your skin. This may reduce the amount of pain you feel and speed up your recovery.

Disclaimer

The operation and treatment information on this website is published under license by The London Clinic from EIDO Healthcare UK and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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