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Knee Arthroscopy

What is a knee arthroscopy? 

– Arthroscopic knee surgery is a day surgery where small keyhole incisions are made in the knee (as opposed to formal, open incisions) which generally leads to a quicker recovery and less pain.

– Arthroscopy is used in evaluating conditions such as torn floating cartilage (meniscus); removing loose bodies (cartilage or bone that has broken off),  patellofemoral (knee-cap) disorders, reconstruction of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament or to wash out infected knees.

What should I do before surgery? 

– If you are on any medication including blood thinners or fish oil inform Dr Herald. 

– Also tell hospital staff or Dr Herald of any cuts or abrasions on the operated leg before your surgery as this can increase infection risk.  

– Smoking increases the risk of surgical complications, so do not smoke at least 10 days before surgery and avoid smoking after surgery.  People who quit smoking before knee surgery have 50% less less complications during and post surgery research shows.  

What happens during a knee arthroscopy? 

– Also called keyhole or minimally-invasive surgery, arthroscopic surgery is a simple day stay procedure which involves Dr Herald using a special instrument known as an arthroscope, while the patient is under a general anaesthetic.

– The arthroscope allows Dr Herald to look into your joint via a very small incision (usually less than 1cm) without having to open the knee joint up.

– With fibre-optic light and a magnifying glass, the arthroscope provides a very accurate view of your joint to determine whether your knee needs a clean up, repair or reconstruction.

– A miniscule camera sitransmits images of your knee joint to a TV for Dr Herald to watch. 

To find out more about your arthroscopy knee surgery read here. 

What are the benefits of arthroscopy? 

– Day surgery, so there’s no need to stay in hospital for lengthy periods

– Optimal recovery due to less invasive procedures

– May have less risk of infection or after care issues

– Smaller scars than open surgery and less scarring 

– Physiotherapy is usually required post operatively and recovery takes around a month.

What conditions is a knee arthroscopy generally used for? 

– Patellofemoral (knee-cap) disorders

– Reconstruction of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament 

– To wash out infected knees 

– Meniscal repair 

– Trimming or reconstruction of damaged ligaments and cartilage 

Note that arthroscopy is NOT recommended for osteoarthritis, where joint replacement is generally the gold standard of treatment after non-surgical approaches have not worked. 

 What are the risks of knee arthroscopy?

– The procedure is very well tolerated as a day surgery and infection risk is low e.g. 1 in 1000.

– Some bleeding can occur after surgery. However, excessive bleeding may need a repeat procedure to evacuate the blood.

– Other very rare side effects include nerve damage or numbness, ongoing pain, blood clots,  high fever, severe pain, redness, bad smelling fluid leaking from the wound, or excess swelling around the wound

– Smokers have sigfnicantly higher risk of complications and slower healing time 

What is the recovery like after an arthroscopy? 

– You will have some pain, swelling bruising and stiffness after surgery, so take pain medication as prescribed as this medication improves inflammatory response and speeds healing. 

– Apply ice packs to reduce swelling 

– Use a splint, supportive brace or crutches if recommended by Dr Herald 

– You may need to take three days off work and avoid vigorous activity for the first four weeks. 

– It can take months for the joint to feel “normal” again.