Knee Arthroscopy

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 knee problem.


Arthroscopy can detect knee problems such as:

  • Tears in ligaments or tendons
  • Pain and swelling (inflammation)
  • Fractures
  • Loose pieces of bone or cartilage
  • 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 on discharge.

Physical therapy

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

Medical Advice should be sort for the following:

  • 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 of breath
  • 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

You will typically be able to return to office based work within 2-3 days. However for manual work a little longer may be required. You should allow between 3-6 weeks.