Arthroscopic surgery, also known as ‘keyhole surgery, allows access to joints including the knee, shoulder, hip and ankle using small cuts in the skin.
The arthroscope is a narrow fibre-optic telescope attached to a camera. Arthroscopy allows the surgeon to directly visualise problems within the joint and often provide treatment using specially designed surgical instruments. Arthroscopic surgery generally allows a faster recovery and produces less post-operative pain than more traditional ‘open’ procedures.
Knee arthroscopy is performed for a number of reasons. More common indications include:
Arthroscopic surgery is usually performed as a day case procedure.
The surgery is carried out in the operating theatre and usually involves a general or regional (epidural or spinal injection) anaesthetic. A tight tourniquet is placed around the thigh prior to the surgery to prevent bleeding during the operation. The majority of operations last less than 45minutes although more complex ligament procedures may take up to two hours. At the end of the procedure local anaesthetic is put into the wounds to help reduce post- operative pain. The wounds are usually closed with paper ‘Steri-Strips' or stitches.
After the operation and recovery from the anaesthetic, walking can begin, initially with the aid of crutches. One of our expert physiotherapists will help mobilise you and give advice on how to use crutches properly.
You will discharged once comfortable and safely moving about. This is normally two to six hours after the surgery.
It is essential that you have a friend or family member on-hand to drive you home following the operation and stay with you for 24 hours.
Recovery and rehabilitation advice will vary according to the procedure that has been performed. Details will be provided by the surgeon and physiotherapist following the surgery.
Usually the knee should be rested for the first few days to allow the wounds to settle. It is normal for the knee to swell following arthroscopy and elevation helps to reduce this. Mild pain killers may be needed in the first few days.
The bandage applied after the operation will be removed by your surgeon and may be replaced with a compression 'tubigrip' support bandage. The plasters and strips covering the wound can be removed 4-7 days following surgery. The wounds should be kept clean and dry until they have sealed over and, once sealed you may resume showering and bathing.
In the first few days following arthroscopic knee surgery, simple rehabilitation exercises including straight leg raising, hip, knee and ankle range of movement and thigh muscle strengthening and tightening exercises should commence.
Return to activity:
Generally, return to activities takes between two and six weeks. Recovery, however depends on the extent of damage within the knee and the surgical procedures performed.
Approximate recovery times following simple arthroscopic surgery:
Knee arthroscopy is a commonly performed procedure and is generally safe. However, in order to make an informed decision and give your consent, you need to be aware of the possible side-effects and the risk of complications of this procedure.
These are the unwanted, but mostly mild and temporary effects of a successful treatment, for example feeling sick as a result of the general anaesthetic.
After a knee arthroscopy you will have small scars on your knee from the cuts. The knee is usually sore for a week or so. The ‘portal sites’ or entry wounds can often be tender and uncomfortable, especially when kneeling, for several months.
This is when problems occur during or after the operation. Most people aren't affected. The possible complications of any operation include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, a wound infection, excessive bleeding or developing a blood clot, usually in a vein in the leg (DVT).
Arthroscopy complications can include:
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