What is a knee arthroscopy?
A knee arthroscopy is a common keyhole procedure, where a small camera is used to see and treat problems inside the knee.
It is a short procedure which involves making two small wounds (incisions) on the front of the knee to gain access to the knee joint. A camera, (which is about the same thickness as a pen) is used to look around the knee and identify the problem. Arthroscopic / keyhole instruments are then used to carry out the work inside the knee.
One of the most common keyhole procedures undertaken is removal of a torn or damaged section of the meniscus (cartilage disc). The medical term for this procedure is an ‘arthroscopic meniscectomy’.
What are the risks associated with knee arthroscopy?
All surgical procedures carry some degree of risk as well as benefit. Generally the risk associated with knee arthroscopy is very low. There is a small risk of infection associated with any operation; it is very low (<1%) with knee arthroscopy. Care is taken to try to minimise the risk of infection. There is a small risk of stiffness with surgery. What should I expect following my knee arthroscopy?
There may be some localised knee swelling following the surgery, especially if a lot of work is carried out inside the knee. This can be helped by trying to rest the leg over the first few days following your surgery, keeping the leg elevated (raised) and applying ice or cold packs to the knee to keep the swelling down. The swelling will naturally go down with time. Crutches are not normally required.
Straight after surgery you will have a big bandage on your knee. This should be left alone for 48 hours, after which point it can be taken off to the leave the two small sticky plasters which will be covering your wounds. Skin stitches are not normally required. The wounds can then be washed in the shower and they will heal over within 10 days or so. The small wounds should be covered with sticky plasters until they have healed over. While a bath or shower is safe, it is not advised to go in a swimming pool until the wounds have healed over.
If a procedure to repair the torn cartilage (meniscal repair) is carried out then often the recovery will be deliberately slower. It may be necessary to wear a hinged knee brace and use crutches for six weeks following your surgery to protect the meniscal repair.
When can I return to work following arthroscopic menisectomy?
If you have a mainly desk based job then you could comfortably be back to work by a week following your surgery. However if need be you could be back at work earlier than this. If you have a very heavy manual job it may be up to 6 weeks before you get fully back to work. You might be able to return to work earlier if your employer can accommodate alternative lighter duties in the interim period.
When can I drive following my knee surgery?
There is no set time frame for getting back to driving following surgery. You must be able to demonstrate that you are safe to drive, (i.e. can carry out an ‘emergency stop’ and handle the vehicle safely at all times). This will vary on an individual basis.
When can I return to sport following my knee arthroscopy?
The speed of return to sport following knee surgery varies between individuals and the level of sport you compete at. This will be discussed with you prior to your surgery.
As a general rule for those carrying out recreational sport it is possible to get back to nonimpact type activities such as swimming or cycling before impact activities such as running.
Once the knee swelling has subsided you can start non-impact activity. It may however take up to 6 to 8 weeks before you can do this comfortably. If you find when carrying out a particular activity it is uncomfortable you should cut this back.