Knee Arthroscopy Surgery Cost and Procedure Information
Written by Medical Quality Manager, Clare , BN (Hons)
Medical Review by Chief Medical Officer, Mr. Dan Howcroft , FRCS (Tr&Orth), MBBS
Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure wherein small tools are used to correct the knee. This surgical method can be used to treat a range of knee problems from osteoarthritis to simply investigating knee problems.
30 minutes to 2 hours
Day case to 1 night
General, Spinal (Epidural) or Local with Sedation
What Is Knee Arthroscopy?
What Can Knee Arthroscopy Achieve?
Arthroscopy is the medical name for a type of keyhole surgery. This is a minimally-invasive technique meaning it uses only the smallest incisions (cuts) possible. A small camera and other small instruments are used to look inside the knee joint. It is usually performed to assess the level of damage in a joint but can also be used to treat or repair by removing excess or damaged tissue.
The most common knee conditions that may require an arthroscopy are:
- Damaged cartilage (i.e. from a sports injury)
- Excess fluid on the knee (known as an effusion)
- Removal of inflamed or damaged tissues within the knee joint
- Investigation and/or treatment of problems with knee cartilage, ligaments, or the kneecap
Arthroscopy is often used to find what is causing pain, swelling, or mobility problems stemming from the knee. It is a likely second step if a scan has already been taken but did not show what is causing the problem.
Other knee surgery options can be more invasive and carry more risks and complications compared to arthroscopy.
Other benefits of arthroscopy compared to traditional methods include:
- Less scarring (as only very small cuts are made)
- Less pain after the procedure
- Faster on-average recovery times
- Reduced risk of infection after the procedure
Who Are BOA?
The British Orthopaedic Association, or BOA, is the leading orthopaedic organisation in the UK. BOA member surgeons must attend regular training sessions to ensure their skills and knowledge are up to date with the latest advances in orthopaedic surgery. Members are some of the most experienced orthopaedic surgeons in the UK.
How much does knee arthroscopy surgery cost?
Prices for UK orthopaedic surgery vary depending on a variety of factors. The location of the hospital, the surgeon operating, what services are included as well as pre-existing health conditions all impact the cost of your arthroscopic knee surgery.
In the UK, knee arthroscopy can cost from £3,500 up. Knee arthroscopy prices are inclusive and transparent. After the consultation, a bespoke price for the knee arthroscopy is given.
This price includes:
- Nursing staff
- Surgery theatre cost
- Imaging costs
Aftercare is included
- Medication prescribed by the surgeon
- A standard mobility aid such as crutches or a cane
- Post-operative physiotherapy sessions
- Post-operative appointments with the surgeon
The cost of knee arthroscopy will not include
- Diagnostic consultations
- £250 for initial consultations
- £150 for additional diagnostic consultations
- Diagnostic imaging scans
- Estimated £150 per x-ray
- From £240 for MRI scans
During the consultation, the surgeon will tell you what scans are needed before surgery. Private orthopaedic care comes with many benefits like more freedom to choose appointment times, surgeon and hospital but the price can be difficult to budget without the surgeon's assessment of the patient's needs.
Candidates for knee arthroscopy
There are many reasons someone might need an arthroscopy.
Some of the conditions that may benefit from knee arthroscopy include:
- Torn or damaged meniscus
- Torn or damaged anterior cruciate ligament
- Kneecap issues
- Removal of damaged knee tissues
- Removal of fragments of knee tissue
- Investigation and treatment of knee joint infection
An ideal candidate for knee arthroscopy is someone who is generally fit and well. As general anaesthetic can carry several risks, the patient’s health and medication history will be checked fully before the procedure to decide if local, spinal (epidural) or general anaesthetic will be safest. An ideal candidate will also understand and be committed to the recovery process, including the need for physiotherapy and attending all follow-up appointments. It is vital that patients follow the post-operative plan given to them by their physiotherapist and surgeon. The exercises and stretches they prescribe help ensure a timely recovery and the best possible end result.
Before the procedure, the patient will be asked to attend an appointment to assess fitness for surgery. This will generally involve answering questions about health and what medications or supplements are in use.
Signing the Consent Form
On the day of the arthroscopy, the patient will meet with their surgeon. They will go over the details of the procedure again, make sure that the patient understands everything and that they're happy to go ahead. Patients will be asked to sign a consent form. This is a legal document that shows they understand the risks of the procedure and give the surgeon consent to operate.
Once the patient has signed the consent form, the surgery can begin, starting with the anaesthetist. They will administer either a general anaesthetic, spinal (epidural) or local anaesthetic with sedation, depending on what was agreed upon in consultation.
Once the anaesthetic is working, the surgeon will sterilise the knee and assess where to make the small cuts. The joint will be filled with sterile water which allows for the camera to get a better view of the joint and give the tools room to move. The knee will be assessed and any treatment that is required will be carried out using the arthroscopic tools.
Once the treatment is finished, the cuts will be closed with sutures or another method. Lastly, the knee is covered in a wound dressing, and the patient is ready to be returned to the ward to recover from anaesthesia.
The patient will be taken to a recovery area and monitored while the anaesthetic wears off. In most cases, they will be able to go home the same day, providing the surgeon is happy with the results of the procedure and that it is safe for the patient to do so.
Further Appointments and Physiotherapy
Follow up appointments, physiotherapy, test results and any other further treatments will be discussed or arranged. It is vital that patients follow the advice given by the surgeon and medical team. The exercises and recommendations they give are all necessary to do in order to get the best results possible from the knee arthroscopy.
Risks and Complications
Knee arthroscopy risks and complications
As with all surgical procedures, there are potential risks and complications that patients should be aware of. It is important that they understand the potential risks and complications before agreeing to any procedure. The surgeon will be happy to discuss these in full ahead of the operation or at any step along the way.
These risks and complications include:
General Surgical Risks
Every surgery comes with risks. These can range in severity and may include complications with anaesthetic, nausea, vomiting, post-operative pain, and blood clots.
Swelling and Bruising
The knee is prone to bruising and swelling after arthroscopy. These tend to resolve after a few days. The doctor may prescribe pain medication to help to limit any discomfort the patient may feel because of bruising or swelling while they heal.
The surgeon and their team will take every precaution possible to minimise the risk of developing an infection. If patients do develop an infection, it can be serious, and the patient may require antibiotics and/or further surgery.
Signs of an infection include:
- Feeling feverish with a temperature above 38° C
- Increasing redness or swelling around the wound site in the first two days after surgery
- Yellow pus or foul-smelling fluid coming from your incisions
- Pain that is not relieved by painkillers
Bleeding in the knee joint after surgery can cause excess pain and swell after the procedure. If severe, it could require further treatment or revision surgery.
Damage to Surrounding Structures
The surgeon will always aim to avoid damaging any part of the body during surgery; however, damage may occasionally happen because of the way the leg and knee must be moved during surgery.
Damage to nerves, ligaments, or blood vessels near the knee may cause the following symptoms:
- Loss or change in sensation
- Mobility issues
While uncommon, these complications may result in the need for further or revision surgery.
Knee Arthroscopy Surgery Preparation
Doing some preparation at home before your day of surgery may help make the recovery as relaxing as possible. It is important to remember that it may take time to return to regular activities. Some discomfort is normal to experience while healing. Furthermore, the surgeon may advise avoiding certain activities altogether for a while.
Some suggestions for preparation:
Try to do any necessary chores before the date of knee arthroscopy. Cleaning, washing and any chore requiring the patient to stand or walk may cause discomfort in the days after the procedure. The surgeon may even tell the patient to avoid these activities altogether for a period of time, so it is a great idea to prepare these things before the surgery.
It’s a great idea to ensure the kitchen is well-stocked before the knee arthroscopy, so the patient does not have to worry about getting to and from the shops while they heal. Preparing and freezing meals is also a great way to prepare for the procedure and removing the need to cook meals whilst in recovery.
Diet & Overall Health
A healthy lifestyle and diet can aid healing after knee arthroscopy. Before and after surgery, focus on eating a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. After surgery, it is a great idea to avoid high-sodium (salty) foods as much as possible because excess salt can increase swelling and, therefore, make the discomfort worse.
Smoking and Alcohol
Nicotine and alcohol can severely negatively impact healing and result after knee arthroscopy. Reduce alcohol intake as much as possible while you heal. Moreover, the surgeon may recommend not drinking alcohol at all in the weeks or days before and after surgery.
Patients must stop smoking or any nicotine product use (like e-cigarettes or nicotine gum) at least six weeks before and after surgery. This is incredibly important as nicotine constricts blood flow throughout the body and therefore can severely negatively impact the healing and results.
Patients will not be able to drive in the 24 to 48 hours following surgery because of the impact of anaesthesia on judgement and coordination. It's a good idea to ask family and friends to help arrange transport to and from the hospital. As the patient heals, driving may be unsafe until the knee regains strength and flexibility. Follow the surgeon’s advice regarding driving.
Child & Pet Care
The patient's ease of mobility will likely be impacted after arthroscopy. If patients have children and/or pets, they may need extra help from friends, family, or a sitter to care for them as they heal. Having extra help around the house can help make the healing process easier and less stressful.
Knee arthroscopy aftercare
Patients may feel more comfortable before the knee arthroscopy if they know what to expect after the treatment. All important aftercare information will be discussed during the consultation or another pre-surgery appointment. This guide is a broad overview of the average aftercare experience for a knee arthroscopy patient. To get the best results possible from the procedure, follow any instructions given by the surgeon regarding aftercare.
Their advice will likely cover subjects like:
- Returning to work
- Returning to sports or exercise
- Caring for wounds
- When to start physiotherapy
Follow-up appointments are vital to the knee arthroscopy aftercare as these meetings allow the surgeon, their team, and the physiotherapist to monitor healing, treat any complications, and check up on the knee function.
Immediately After Surgery
The knee will have wound dressings around it. Surgical wounds will need dressings applied to them for up to a week after the surgery.
The patient will likely feel groggy as they recover from anaesthesia and may notice the knee is sore and makes it difficult to move freely. The team caring for the patient at the hospital will provide painkillers to help the patient manage any discomfort they may feel after surgery.
The First 24 Hours
The medical team at the hospital will encourage patients to stand up and walk around before they are allowed to go home. As long as they can move a little on their own and do not show any major complications, they will be able to return home the same day as the knee arthroscopy. Patients may be given a mobility aid like crutches or a walker to move around more comfortably in the first days after surgery.
Time Away from Work
On average, knee arthroscopy patients need between one to two weeks away from work after surgery, though the time they need away from work is ultimately decided by the type of work they do as well as their health. If the patient's work is more manual or high-impact on the body, patients will likely need more time than two weeks to heal. The surgeon will suggest a more precise and individually tailored estimate before the surgery so they can plan accordingly.
Returning to Exercise and Sport
Patients should be able to return to light exercise after two to three weeks. For more intense, high-impact sports like running, they may need to wait up to six weeks. The surgeon and physiotherapist will be able to provide a custom schedule to help patients safely begin exercising after the surgery.
The overall intensity of the exercise patients should be increased gradually to make sure the knee is ready for each level and type of exercise.
Dressings and Stitches
The surgical wounds around the knee will be covered with a dressing after surgery. If the incisions were closed with staples or stitches, a dressing would cover them until they are removed. If the wounds were closed with another method, the dressing might only need to stay on for a few days. It is unsanitary and unsafe to submerge the surgical wounds or get them wet as they heal. The surgeon will let the patient know when it is safe to fully bathe or shower after the surgery.
Patients will likely book a future physiotherapy appointment while they are still in hospital after the surgery. These physiotherapy sessions are crucial to ensure the knee heals properly. These appointments will likely occur at least once per week, and patients will be assigned exercises to do at home between sessions. This physiotherapy helps build strength in the knee and should help the knee recover and improve slowly.
Daily walks may be recommended once the patient has healed to a certain point. Regular light exercise like walking is very conducive to healing for joints.
Knee arthroscopy final results
Each patient heals differently and at a different pace, so time frames regarding a full recovery from knee arthroscopy surgery are difficult to estimate. Generally, many patients see an improvement in pain and discomfort in their knee quickly after surgery. However, it may take up to three months for patients to resume any high-impact exercise or team sports.
In order for patients to have the best results possible from the knee arthroscopy, they must exactly follow the instructions given by the surgeon and physiotherapist. Doing so will reduce the risk of developing complications and ensuring the health of the knee in the long term.
Are There Any Alternatives to Knee Arthroscopy?
Depending on the condition you are being treated for, there may or may not be alternative treatment options. Your doctor will discuss these with you before you decide on whether to have an arthroscopy. In general, knee conditions can be treated in several ways:
- Conservatively - with rest, physiotherapy and rehabilitation
- Medically - with anti-inflammatory and/or pain killer medications
- Surgically - with a procedure such as an arthroscopy
Of the options within surgery, arthroscopy is one of the more minimally-invasive procedures. Your surgeon will be happy to answer any questions and explain the alternatives to ensure you make the decision about your treatment.
Will my knee be 100% back to normal after arthroscopy?
Timeframes vary greatly between patients and it is difficult to give a generalised answer. The aim of arthroscopy may be to improve knee pain, stiffness or function in which case you will hopefully see an improvement immediately after the procedure. There are rare cases in which the procedure does not help, or a complication occurs which may affect knee health.
Your surgeon will discuss your goals with you to ensure you have similar expectations. They will also clearly outline the recovery process and how long it may take to see results so you know what to expect.
How long until I am back to normal activities after knee arthroscopy?
While it depends on your overall health and the kind of type of arthroscopy you have had, most people find they are able to return to work and light physical activities like walking, cycling, or swimming in one to two weeks. You will require weekly physiotherapy for as long as several months and further recovery before returning to higher-impact sports like running or heavy lifting.
Your surgeon and physiotherapist will give you a personalised timetable of how and when to return to your usual activities.
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