Arthro means joint and scope is to look at; a knee arthroscopy therefore allows the surgeon to see inside your knee and directly inspect the bones, cartilages and other structures within the joint. This gives a much more accurate picture than any other investigation such as X-rays or MRI scans.
In addition the surgeon can perform procedures to improve the function of the knee. In the modern era arthroscopies are only rarely required for just diagnostic purposes – nearly always a procedure is also undertaken to improve the function of the knee.
Arthroscopy is commonly known as key hole surgery as the incisions are minimal and therefore reduce scarring and allow quicker recovery. Prior to the advent of the arthroscope, such operations would mean a full open operation with extensive scarring and a much longer period of recovery.
During an arthroscopy a small camera-type device is inserted into the knee and this relays pictures to a television screen. At the same time instruments can be inserted into the knee so that surgery can be performed e.g. removing a portion of meniscus (cartilage). After the procedure you will be given a video recording of the procedure.
The commonest reason to undergo an arthroscopy is for relief of PAIN – only you know how much pain you are in. You therefore decide if the pain you are experiencing warrants an operation, albeit a relatively minor one.
There are many other reasons for an arthroscopy. Listed here are the most common ones. However please bear in mind one major principle – the decision to proceed to an arthroscopy is entirely one of YOUR choice. Our role is to tell you what is wrong with your knee and what can (and cannot) be done to fix it – it is your decision as to whether you wish to proceed to surgery.
In 90% of patients undergoing routine arthroscopies there is little or no pain – this is because the procedure is relatively non-traumatic and also because a number of analgesic drugs are placed into the knee at the time of the procedure. If you are in any significant pain, further analgesics are given to you.
It is normal for the knee to feel a little uncomfortable on the day after your operation. This is because the local anaesthetic inserted into the knee at the end of the operation may have started to wear off. Pain-relieving tablets may be required for a few days. These will be given to you on discharge from hospital.
You can normally go home 3-4 hours after the procedure. You will be given a CD-ROM / DVD of the procedure and we will explain what was found and what procedures were performed. This information will be repeated again at your first out-patient visit.