Patient information sheet
Arthroscopic or ‘Key hole’
surgery to the knee.
Knee arthroscopy gives a view of the inside of the knee. This
procedure allows your surgeon to see if you have a knee injury
or abnormality. He/She may also use arthroscopy to correct your
Arthroscopy can detect knee problems such as:
- Tears in ligaments or tendons
- Pain and swelling (inflammation)
- Loose pieces of bone or
- Joint wear and tear
Arthroscopy can treat knee problems such as:
- Tears in the meniscus
- Wear and tear of other cartilage
- Tears in ligaments
- Other knee problems
Arthroscopy uses only a few small incisions. Usually you have
this procedure as an outpatient in the day surgery unit (DSU).
You go home the same day as your surgery. An adult will need to
drive you home and stay with you the evening of surgery. You must
not drive for 24 hours after an anaesthetic. You should undertake
only essential walking in the first two to three days after surgery.
What happens during surgery?
Firstly you have an anaesthetic. Patients usually receive either
general or spinal anaesthesia. Then a very tight band is placed
on the thigh of your affected leg. The band reduces the amount
of bleeding in the joint and gives your surgeon a better view.
This band is called a tourniquet.
Two or three small incisions are made in the knee. Your surgeon
can insert instruments through the incisions. First your knee
is filled with sterile fluid. The fluid expands the knee joint
to make more room inside for the surgeon to see and work.
Next, a tube that has a small light and camera is inserted into
the knee. The tube is called an arthroscope. The camera sends
an image of your knee to a TV monitor. Your surgeon can view the
inside of your knee on the monitor and take photographs.
When possible, the surgeon uses special surgical instruments
to correct the injury or abnormality. Then the joint is washed
out with a stream of fluid and the instruments are removed. The
incisions are left open and only occasionally require stitches.
Dressings are put on the knee.
After your surgery
It is important to keep the outer dressing clean and dry after
surgery. The dressings can be removed 24 hours after surgery leaving
the wounds exposed.
For pain and swelling
It is important to keep your leg raised when you are not walking.
Keep your ankle higher than your knee, and your knee higher than
your hip. This will help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
Ice in a plastic bag surrounded by a towel can also help swelling
and pain. For the first 48 hours, you may use ice for 20 to 30
minutes at a time, several times a day. Take the pain killers
given on discharge as required.
To prevent movement
You may need to wear a brace after surgery to protect a meniscal
repair. Use the brace as directed by the physiotherapist or nurse
Your physiotherapist may give you special exercises after surgery.
These will help restore movement and strength to your knee. You
may be given crutches. Use them as directed by your physiotherapist.
When to seek medical advice
- Chills or a fever of 38.5
C or above
- Redness, swelling, or continued
drainage from your incisions
- Swelling or pain in the
calf of your affected leg
- Chest pain or shortness
- Pain not relieved by taking
prescribed pain killers, raising your leg or applying ice
- Discolouration, numbness
or tingling in the affected leg or toes of the affected leg.
Follow up appointment
On discharge from hospital you will be given an appointment for
outpatients or it will be sent in the post. This is generally
2 to 6 weeks after surgery. Your results will be discussed at
this appointment and your progress monitored.
Return to activity
The time taken for return to activity is between two and six
weeks. This depends on the extent of damage found within the knee,
the type of treatment undertaken and the type of activity you
wish to perform.
Return to work
- Sedentary work 2-3 days
- Physical work 3-6
Contact phone: DSU
Clinic 01423 553440