Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Knee arthroscopy

Knee arthroscopy is surgery that uses a tiny camera to look inside your knee. Small cuts are made to insert the camera and small surgical tools into your knee for the procedure.   

Three different types of pain relief (anesthesia) may be used for knee arthroscopy surgery:

  • Local anesthesia. Your knee may be numbed with pain medicine. You may also be given medicines that relax you. You will stay awake.
  • Spinal anesthesia . This is also called regional anesthesia. The pain medicine is injected into a space in your spine. You will be awake but will not be able to feel anything below your waist.
  • General anesthesia . You will be asleep and pain-free.
  • Femoral nerve block. This is another type of regional anesthesia. The pain medicine is injected around the nerve in your groin. You will be asleep during the operation. This type of anesthesia will block out pain so that you need less general anesthesia.

A cuff-like device may be put around your thigh to help control bleeding during the procedure.

The surgeon will make two or three small cuts around your knee. Salt water (saline) will be pumped into your knee to stretch the knee.

A narrow tube with a tiny camera on the end will be inserted through one of the cuts. The camera is attached to a video monitor that lets the surgeon see inside the knee.

The surgeon may put other small surgery tools inside your knee through the other cuts. The surgeon will then fix or remove the problem in your knee.

At the end of your surgery, the saline will be drained from your knee. The surgeon will close your cuts with sutures (stitches) and cover them with a dressing. Many surgeons take pictures of the procedure from the video monitor, You may be able to view these pictures after the operation so that you can see what was done.

Alternative Names

Knee scope - arthroscopic lateral retinacular release; Synovectomy - knee; Patellar (knee) debridement; Meniscus repair; Lateral release; Knee surgery

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Arthroscopy may be recommended for these knee problems:

  • Torn meniscus . Meniscus is cartilage that cushions the space between the bones in the knee. Surgery is done to repair or remove it.
  • Torn or damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Swollen (inflamed) or damaged lining of the joint. This lining is called the synovium.
  • Kneecap (patella) that is out of position (misalignment).
  • Small pieces of broken cartilage in the knee joint
  • Removal of Baker's cyst . This is a swelling behind the knee that is filled with fluid. Sometimes the problem occurs when there is swelling and pain (inflammation) from other causes, like arthritis.
  • Some fractures of the bones of the knee

Risks

The risks for any anesthesia are:

The risks for any surgery are:

Additional risks for this surgery include:

  • Bleeding into the knee joint
  • Damage to the cartilage, meniscus, or ligaments in the knee
  • Blood clot in the leg
  • Injury to a blood vessel or nerve
  • Infection in the knee joint
  • Knee stiffness

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse what medicines you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During the 2 weeks before your surgery:

  • Your doctor may tell you to stop taking medicines that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other blood thinners.
  • Ask your doctor which medicines you should still take on the day of your surgery.
  • Tell your doctor if you have been drinking a lot of alcohol (more than 1 or 2 drinks a day).
  • If you smoke, try to stop. Ask your doctor for help. Smoking can slow down wound and bone healing.
  • Always let your doctor know about any cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness you have before your surgery.

On the day of your surgery:

  • You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything for 6 to 12 hours before the procedure.
  • Take the medicines your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

After the Procedure

You will have an ace bandage on your knee over the dressing. Most people go home the same day they have surgery. Your doctor will give you exercises to do.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Full recovery after knee arthroscopy will depend on what type of problem was treated.

Problems such as a torn meniscus, broken cartilage, Baker's cyst, and problems with the synovium are often easily fixed. Many people stay remain active after these surgeries.

Recovery from simple procedures is usually fast. You may need to use crutches for a while after some types of surgery. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medicine.

Recovery will take longer if you have had a more complex procedure. If parts of your knee have been repaired or rebuilt, is  you may not be able to walk without crutches or a knee brace for several weeks. Full recovery may take several months to a year.

If you also have arthritis in your knee, you will still have arthritis symptoms after surgery to repair other damage to your knee.

References

Phillips BB, Mihalko MJ. Arthroscopy of the lower extremity. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 51.

Miller MD, Hart J. Surgical principles. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 2.

Updated: 1/17/2013

C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com