Arthroscopy allows surgeons to see, diagnose, and treat problems inside the knee joint. Before arthroscopic surgery existed, surgeons made large incisions that affected the surrounding joint structures and tissues. They had to open the knee joint to see it and perform surgery. An arthroscopy requires small incisions and is guided by a small viewing instrument or "scope.” Arthroscopy is less invasive than traditional surgical methods. It has a decreased risk of infection and a shorter recovery period.
Four ligaments connect our knee bones together. The ligaments are strong tissues that provide stability and allow motion. The Medial Collateral Ligament is located on the inner side of our knee. The Lateral Collateral Ligament is at the outer side of our knee. These two ligaments help the joint to resist side to side stress and maintain positioning.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament and the Posterior Cruciate Ligament cross inside of the knee joint. These two ligaments help to keep the joint aligned. They resist excessive forward and backward forces and prohibit displacement of the bones. They also produce and control rotation of the tibia. We rotate our tibia when we turn our leg outward to push off the ground with our foot. We use this motion to push off from the side when skate, run, or move our body to get into a car.
A smooth tissue capsule covers the bones in our knee joint. A thin synovial membrane lines the capsule. The synovium secretes a thick liquid called synovial fluid. The synovial fluid acts as a cushion and lubricant between the joints, allowing us to perform smooth and painless motions.
The menisci are a common location of injury and disease. Meniscal injury usually occurs when the femur rotates suddenly and forcefully, while the tibia remains in a fixed position. The torque can cause the menisci to tear or fragment and become loose. This type of injury can occur in football when a player is tackled or clipped from the side.
Overuse and “wear and tear” can cause the ligaments and synovium to become inflamed. They may swell and feel painful. Inflammation of the synovial membrane can occur with rheumatoid or gouty arthritis, as can bone deterioration. The knee bones can be fractured or broken during an injury. The patella may come out of its normal alignment and become unstable. The patella is commonly fractured from falls directly onto the knee.
Before the operation, your surgeon will elevate your leg and apply a tourniquet, an inflatable band. This will reduce the blood flow to your knee during the procedure.
Your surgeon will make one or more small incisions, about ¼” to ½” in length, near your joint. Your surgeon will fill the joint space with a sterile saline (salt-water) solution. Expansion of the space allows your surgeon to have a better view of your joint structures. Your surgeon will insert the arthroscope and may reposition it to see your joint from different angles.
If you are having surgical treatment, your surgeon may make additional small incisions and use other slender surgical instruments.
When your procedure is completed, your surgeon may inject your joint with medication to reduce pain and inflammation. Because the incisions are so small, they will require just a few stitches or Steri-Strips. Your surgeon will cover them with a bandage.
If you have surgery, you will be instructed to elevate your leg and apply ice to your joint to help reduce pain and swelling. Your surgeon may restrict your activity and may recommend that you wear a knee brace for a short period of time following your procedure. Physical therapists will show you how to exercise your knee to gain strength and flexibility. You will most likely need to use crutches, a walker, or a cane to help you walk at first. Your surgeon will instruct you regarding how much weight to put on your leg, depending on your procedure.
Your physical therapist will gradually increase your exercise program to increase your strength, coordination, and endurance. When your incisions are healed you may perform physical therapy exercises in a heated therapeutic pool. The heat may help to relieve pain and stiffness, while the water provides you with support while exercising your joints. It is very important to keep the muscles around your knee joint strong. Eventually, your physical therapist will provide you with a home exercise program.
Overall, arthroscopic knee surgery requires a shorter length of time for recovery than open joint surgery. It also has a
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The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.