Knee Arthroscopy

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What Is Knee Arthroscopy?

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.

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:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Damaged cartilage (i.e. from a sports injury)
  • Excess fluid on the knee (known 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 done 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

To follow is an overview of what happens during a knee arthroscopy to give you an idea of what to expect. You may wish to write down any questions you have so you can discuss them with your surgeon or Medbelle Patient Care Adviser.

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. This is why we at Medbelle only work with orthopaedic surgeons who are BOA members. Ensuring our surgeons are BOA members allows us to make sure our knee arthroscopy patients receive only the highest quality care.

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Our Treatment Guide

Overview

What Is Knee Arthroscopy?

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.

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:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Damaged cartilage (i.e. from a sports injury)
  • Excess fluid on the knee (known 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 done 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

To follow is an overview of what happens during a knee arthroscopy to give you an idea of what to expect. You may wish to write down any questions you have so you can discuss them with your surgeon or Medbelle Patient Care Adviser.

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. This is why we at Medbelle only work with orthopaedic surgeons who are BOA members. Ensuring our surgeons are BOA members allows us to make sure our knee arthroscopy patients receive only the highest quality care.

Candidates

What Makes an Ideal Candidate for Knee Arthroscopy?

As above, 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, your health and medication history will be checked fully before the procedure to decide if local or general anaesthetic will be safest for you. 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 you follow the post-operative plan given to you by your physiotherapist and surgeon. The exercises and stretches they prescribe help ensure your timely recovery and the best possible end result.

If you have any questions, your surgeon will be happy to answer them throughout the process.

Procedure

How Is Knee Arthroscopy Performed?

Before your procedure, you will be asked to attend an appointment to assess your fitness for surgery. This will generally involve answering questions about your health and what medications or supplements you take.

Signing the Consent Form

On the day of the arthroscopy, you will meet with your surgeon. They will go over the details of the procedure again, make sure that you understand everything and that you are happy to go ahead. You will be asked to sign a consent form. This is a legal document that shows you understand the risks of the procedure and give your surgeon consent to operate.

Anaesthesia

Once you have signed the consent form, the surgery can begin, starting with the anaesthetist. They will administer either a general anaesthetic or local anaesthetic with sedation depending on what you and your surgeon have agreed upon.

Incisions

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.

Your knee will be assessed and any treatment that is required will be carried out using the arthroscopic tools.

Closing Incisions

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 you’re ready to be returned to the ward to recover from anaesthesia.

Recovery

You will be taken to a recovery area and monitored while the anaesthetic wears off. In most cases, you 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 you 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 you follow the advice given to you by your surgeon and medical team. The exercises and recommendations they give you are all necessary to do in order to get you the best results possible from your knee osteotomy.

Risks and Complications

What are the Main Risks and Complications of Knee Arthroscopy?

As with all surgical procedures, there are potential risks and complications that you should be aware of. It is important that you understand the potential risks and complications before agreeing to any procedure. Your surgeon will be happy to discuss these in full with you ahead of your 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. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication to help to limit any discomfort you may feel because of bruising or swelling while you heal.

Infection

Your surgeon and their team will take every precaution possible to minimise the risk you develop an infection. If you do develop an infection, it can be serious and you may require antibiotics and/or further surgery.

Signs you may have an infection include:

  • Feeling feverish with a temperature above 38° C
  • Increasing redness or swelling around the wound site in the first 2 days after surgery
  • Yellow pus or foul-smelling fluid coming from your incisions
  • Pain that is not relieved by painkillers

If you believe you have an infection, seek urgent medical advice and contact your surgeon.

Bleeding

Bleeding in the knee joint after surgery can cause excess pain and swelling after the procedure. If severe, it could require further treatment or revision surgery.

Damage to surrounding structures

Your surgeon will always aim to avoid damaging any part of your 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
  • Pain
  • Bleeding

While uncommon, these complications may result in the need for further or revision surgery.

Preparing for Your Treatment

How Can I Prepare for My Knee Arthroscopy?

Doing some preparation at home before your day of surgery may help make your recovery as relaxing as possible.

It is important to remember that it may take time to return to your regular activities. Some discomfort is normal to experience while you heal. Furthermore, your surgeon may advise you to avoid certain activities altogether for a while.

Some suggestions for preparation:

Household Work

Try to do any necessary chores before the date of knee arthroscopy. Cleaning, laundry, and any chore requiring you to stand or walk may cause discomfort in the days after your procedure. You may even be told by your surgeon to avoid these activities altogether for a period of time, so it is a great idea to prepare these things before your surgery.

Food Shopping

It’s a great idea to ensure your kitchen is well-stocked before your knee arthroscopy so you do not have to worry about getting to and from the shops while you heal.

Preparing and freezing meals is also a great way to prepare for your procedure and make sure you don’t have to cook or rely on takeaway meals which are high in salt that can increase swelling and slow healing.

Diet & Overall Health

A healthy lifestyle and diet can aid your 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 make swelling and therefore discomfort worse.

Smoking and alcohol

Nicotine and alcohol can severely negatively impact your healing and result after knee arthroscopy.

Reduce alcohol intake as much as possible while you heal. Moreover, your surgeon may recommend you do not drink alcohol at all in the weeks or days before and after surgery.

You must stop smoking or any nicotine product use (like e-cigarettes or nicotine gum) at least 6 weeks before and after surgery. This is incredibly important as nicotine constricts blood flow throughout the body and therefore can severely negatively impact your healing and results.

Driving

You will not be able to drive in the 24 to 48 hours following surgery because of the impact of anaesthesia on your judgement and coordination. Your family, friends, or your Medbelle Patient Care Adviser can help arrange transport for you so you get home safely after surgery

As you heal, driving may be unsafe until your knee regains strength and flexibility. Follow your surgeon’s advice regarding driving yourself after surgery.

Weight & BMI

Achieving or maintaining a healthy, sustainable weight and BMI before surgery can make it easier for your knee to heal after arthroscopy. Your surgeon may suggest you lose a certain amount of weight before you can have surgery. If you are struggling to lose weight in time for the operation, your surgeon may be able to refer you to a specialist dietician or weight loss adviser for support.

Child & Pet Care

Your ease of mobility will likely be impacted after arthroscopy. If you have children and/or pets, you may need extra help from friends, family, or a sitter to care for them as you heal. Having extra help around the house can help make your healing process easier and less stressful.

Aftercare

What Can I Expect After Knee Arthroscopy?

You may feel more comfortable before your knee arthroscopy if you know what you can expect after the treatment. All vital aftercare information will be discussed during your 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 your treatment, follow any instructions given to you by your surgeon regarding aftercare.

Their advice will likely cover subjects like:

  • When you can return to work
  • When you can resume different types of exercise
  • The correct way to care for your surgical wounds
  • When to start physiotherapy

Follow-up appointments are vital to your knee arthroscopy aftercare as these meetings allow for your surgeon, their team, and your physiotherapist to monitor your healing, treat any complications, and check-up on the function of your knee.

Immediately After Surgery

Your knee will have wound dressings around it. Your surgical wounds will need dressings applied to them for up to a week after the surgery.

You will likely feel groggy as you recover from anaesthesia and may notice your knee is sore and makes it difficult to move freely. The team caring for you at the hospital will provide you with painkillers to help you manage any discomfort you may feel after surgery.

The First 24 Hours

The medical team at the hospital will encourage you to stand up and walk around before you are allowed to go home. As long as you are able to move a little on your own and do not show any major complications you will be able to return home the same day as your knee arthroscopy. You may be given a mobility aid like crutches or a walker to make moving around more comfortable in the first days after surgery.

Time Away from Work

On average, knee arthroscopy patients need between 1 to 2 weeks away from work after surgery, though the time you need away from work is ultimately decided by the type of work you do as well as your health.

If your work is more manual or high-impact on your body, you will likely need more time than 2 weeks to heal. Your surgeon will suggest a more precise and individually tailored estimate to you before your surgery so you can plan accordingly.

Returning to Exercise and Sport

You should be able to return to light exercise after 2 to 3 weeks. For more intense, high-impact sports like running, you may need to wait up to 6 weeks. Your surgeon and physiotherapist will be able to provide you with a custom schedule to help you safely begin exercising after your surgery.

The overall intensity of the exercise you do should be increased gradually to make sure your knee is ready for each level and type of exercise.

Dressings and Stitches

The surgical wounds around your knee will be covered with a dressing after surgery. If your incisions were closed with staples or stitches, a dressing will need to cover them until they are removed. If the wounds were closed with another method, the dressing may only need to stay on for a few days.

It is unsanitary and unsafe to submerge your surgical wounds or get them wet as they heal. Your surgeon will let you know when it is safe for you to fully bathe or shower after your surgery.

Physiotherapy

You will likely book a future physiotherapy appointment while you are still in hospital after your surgery. These physiotherapy sessions are crucial to ensure your knee heals properly. These appointments will likely occur at least once per week and you will be assigned exercises to do at home between sessions. This physiotherapy helps build strength in your knee and should help your knee recover and improve slowly.

Daily walks may be recommended once you have healed to a certain point. Regular light exercise like walking is very conducive to healing for joints.

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 you to resume any high-impact exercise or team sports.

In order for you to have the best results possible from your knee arthroscopy, you must exactly follow the instructions given to you by your surgeon and physiotherapist. Doing so will reduce your risk of developing complications and ensuring the health of your knee in the long term.

Knee Arthroscopy FAQs

How long until I am back to normal activities after knee arthroscopy?

While it depends on your overall health and the kind 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.

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.

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 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.

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