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Knee Arthroscopy

Dr. Renny Uppal, MD

What is Knee Arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is a surgical procedure used to visualize, diagnose, and treat various problems inside the knee joint. This is done through small incisions that allow the insertion of specialized instruments. The arthroscope is a pencil-sized tool that contains magnifying lenses and a fiber optic light. This is attached to a small camera that projects a clear image of the joint on a monitor, allowing your surgeon to see all the structures inside your knee.

How Does the Knee Work?

Your knee acts like a hinge joint connecting your thigh bone (femur) to your shin bone (tibia). Lining articular cartilage covers the ends of the bones and underside of the kneecap, and helps the joint glide smoothly. The meniscus is a horseshoe shaped pad of cartilage that functions as a cushion or shock absorber between the bones. Ligaments are rope like structures that hold the joint together and provide stability. There are 4 main ligaments in your knee, 2 outside the joint (medial and lateral collateral ligaments), and 2 inside the joint (anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments). The muscles around the knee provide strength and power, and also help stabilize the joint. Tendons are the specialized ends of the muscles that connect them to bones.

Why Do I Need Arthroscopic Knee Surgery?

Arthroscopic knee surgery is used to treat a variety of common knee disorders, including meniscus cartilage tears, anterior cruciate ligament tears, articular cartilage wear, and patella problems.

How is Arthroscopy Performed?

Arthroscopy is typically performed in an outpatient surgery setting. The type of anesthesia used is up to the patient, surgeon, and anesthesiologist, but the procedures can often be done under local anesthesia. Two small incisions, each the size of a dime, are needed to insert the scope and any necessary instruments. The joint is filled with sterile fluid to improve visualization. Most procedures take less than one hour to perform. Partial weight bearing with crutches is recommended for the first few days after surgery, and then walking as tolerated is allowed.

Elevation, icing, and anti-inflammatory medications will help decrease pain and swelling. The knee should be kept dry when showering for the first 3 days by placing a bag over the leg. After this, simply change the band-aids after bathing. Patients usually begin light exercise in 1 week.

Return to full activities may take several weeks to several months depending on the procedure performed.

What are the Benefits of Arthroscopic Surgery?

Benefits of arthroscopic surgery compared with older open surgical techniques include:

  1. Minimal scars.
  2. No overnight hospital stay.
  3. Decreased pain and swelling.
  4. Improved motion.
  5. Quicker functional recovery.
  6. Fewer risks and complications.

Risks and Complications

Complications from arthroscopic surgery are extremely rare, and include bleeding, infection, blood clots, nerve or blood vessel injury, and the need for further surgery. The most common reason patients experience some persistent discomfort after arthroscopic surgery is from underlying damage to the articular or lining cartilage of the joint (early arthritis).

Your sports medicine surgeons at the Reno Orthopedic Center have performed thousands of knee arthroscopy procedures. As our patient, you can be assured of the best possible treatment available today.