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1. What is Knee Arthroscopy?
Knee arthroscopy is sometimes called 'keyhole surgery'. It involves making 2 or 3 tiny cuts into the knee and putting a camera system called an arthroscope inside the knee joint. In the past, knee arthroscopy was used as a way of looking inside the knee to work out what was wrong but nowadays we are able to do this in other ways such as with a MRI scan. This means that knee arthroscopy is rarely done to simply make a diagnosis but is usually used as a way of performing an operation within the knee joint. It is important to realise that knee arthroscopy is not an operation in itself but is a way of performing operations that in the past needed to be done with a big incision (surgical cut).
2. What sort of surgery can be done this way?
With modern technology and a skilled surgeon there are a wide range of procedures that can be done using arthroscopy. These include common operations such as cartilage (meniscal) surgery or more complex knee operations such as treatment of some fractures or ligament reconstruction surgery.
3. What are the advantages of knee arthroscopy?
By using the camera, only small cuts into the joint are made and this means there is minor trauma to the tissues around the knee. Because of this, there is usually less pain than if the operation were done using a big incision and patient recovery is much quicker with the risk of complications much lower. From the perspective of a surgeon who is well trained and familiar with using the arthroscope, it can make it much easier to see within the tight space of the knee joint than with more conventional ‘open’ surgery.
4. What are the risks?
All operations come with risks and usually precautions are taken during surgery to minimise these but as with any surgery, complications can occur. Your surgeon should discuss these with you and also work out if, because of your individual circumstances, you may be at increased risk of complications. For example, some people are known to form blood clots more easily than others and these people may need extra precautions to be taken during operations to reduce these risks. Despite all of this, the risks with knee arthroscopy are considered to be very low, but include a very small risk of infection or blood clots in the leg veins (DVT/Deep Vein Thrombosis) and even more rarely on the lungs (Pulmonary Embolism).
5. How soon will I be able to walk after my surgery?
Because knee arthroscopy is not very invasive, most people will be comfortable enough to walk almost immediately after surgery but this does depend a little on why the arthroscopy was performed. For example, after a simple procedure like the removal of a torn cartilage, I would expect most patients to be able to walk out of hospital a few hours after the operation without the need of crutches. For more major surgery such as cruciate ligament operations, most people will be able to walk shortly after the procedure, but using crutches.
6. How soon can I drive after a knee arthroscopy?
Again this depends upon a number of things. If your car is automatic or you have left leg surgery you can drive when you feel comfortable to do so. For a manual car or right leg surgery, this is dependent upon the particular surgery. For example, after a simple arthroscopic procedure such as a cartilage operation most people are safe to drive wtihin 5 days. After more major surgery, such as an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstruction, you are not safe to drive for 4 weeks.
Copyright Paul Sutton, 2016.