If you have very early arthritis or a tear of the meniscus, or “shock absorber” cartilage between the bones, you may be a good candidate for a knee “scope”, or arthroscopy.
Knee arthroscopy is a common surgical procedure in which a joint is viewed using a small camera. Arthroscopy gives doctors a clear view of the inside of the knee. This helps them diagnose and treat knee problems.
Arthroscopy is done through small incisions. During the procedure, your orthopedic surgeon inserts the arthroscope (a small camera instrument about the size of a pencil) into your knee joint. The arthroscope sends the image to a television monitor. On the monitor, your surgeon can see the structures of the knee in great detail.
Your surgeon’s first task is to properly diagnose your problem. If surgical treatment is needed, your surgeon will insert tiny instruments through another small incision. These instruments might be scissors, motorized shavers, or cutting instruments.
This part of the procedure usually lasts 30 minutes to over an hour. How long it takes depends upon the findings and the treatment necessary.
Arthroscopy for the knee is most commonly used for:
- Removal or repair of torn meniscal cartilage
- Trimming of torn pieces of articular cartilage
- Removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage
- Removal of inflamed synovial tissue
Most knee scopes are done as an outpatient, meaning you will go home on the same day of your surgery. You will be moved to the recovery room and should be able to go home within 1 or 2 hours. Be sure to have someone with you to drive you home.
After a knee arthroscopy you will need to use crutches or a walker for about 5 days, but the overall recovery is quick and you should be able to return to most physical activities after 6 to 8 weeks, or sometimes much sooner. Higher impact activities may need to be avoided for a longer time.
The final outcome of your surgery will likely be determined by the degree of damage to your knee. For example, if the articular cartilage in your knee has worn away completely, then full recovery may not be possible. You may need to change your lifestyle. This might mean limiting your activities and finding low-impact exercise alternative.
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