How is knee arthroscopy performed?

Written by: Mr Andrew Davies
Edited by: Jay Staniland

Knee arthroscopy is the technique which people commonly refer to as keyhole surgery. Through two tiny little incisions, surgeons are able to get inside the knee joint with the camera and tools to look around the knee, producing a fantastic view of all the tissues. Problems can be identified and dealt with surgically, all through minimally invasive, low trauma techniques. Leading consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Andrew John Davies talks through the knee arthroscopy procedure.


How is knee arthroscopy performed?


Knee arthroscopy is performed in a very careful, standardised fashion. Initially, the patient is usually given general anaesthetic, which is administered in the spine as an epidural. In some cases, local anesthesia is used, but this is rare.

Before the procedure, the patient’s skin is painted with antibacterial solution and cleaned. The area is dressed and wrapped, and often a tourniquet is used on the leg.

An arthroscope, which includes a camera and medical tools, is introduced through two tiny holes in the front of the knee. The knee is gently inflated with a clear saline solution that enables the surgeon to look around the knee with a high definition camera, producing a fantastic view as if you're watching on your television.

At that point, the problem can be identified and dealt with surgically. Depending on the level of invasiveness of the procedure, most cases only require two tiny incisions.

At the end of the procedure, the knee is washed out very carefully, and any damaged debris or tissue is removed. The wounds are then dressed with simple paper strips or simple stitches.

The knee is injected with a local anaesthetic to make sure patients are pain free.


What is the recovery time for knee arthroscopic surgery?


The vast majority of knee arthroscopy patients can walk out of hospital within a few hours of admission and very few of them actually even require crutches. Patients can usually be mobilised, allowing them to get back to activity as quickly as possible.

The recovery from the arthroscopic knee surgery very much depends upon the procedure that's been performed.

For example, a patient having a torn cartilage trimmed can expect to be back at work within two to three days. They would have to ice the knee, perform physiotherapy and can then expect to be back to full activity level, including sports, in about six to eight weeks.

For the more complex surgeries such as ligament reconstruction, then the recovery is a lot longer. In these cases, patients can usually expect to come off their crutches after around two to three weeks. At six weeks they would usually be walking normally, after 12 weeks most patients would be at the stage where they could do some light jogging, and at 24 weeks they start twisting turning and jumping. However, complete recovery actually takes nine months.

If you would like to make an appointment with a knee arthroscopy specialist, you can do so here.

By Mr Andrew Davies
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Andrew John Davies is a vastly experienced consultant orthopaedic surgeon, specialising in knee surgery. From his private clinics across central London, Mr Davies specalises in reconstructive surgery, and sports injury to the knee. 

Mr Andrew John Davies began his orthopaedic training on the North West Thames training programme in 1994, before undertaking fellowships in reconstructive knee surgery at the renowned Sports Medicine Clinic in Perth, Australia. Following this, Mr Davies was appointed as a specialist knee surgeon at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital. He has completed more than 2,000 ACL reconstruction procedures, and several thousand knee arthroscopies. His teaching hospital practice was very much weighted towards complex and revision surgery referred from hospitals elsewhere.

Mr Davies' practice focuses on ligament reconstruction, all aspects of cartilage surgery, complex reconstruction including osteotomy and joint replacement including partial, complete, and revision.

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