Knee Arthroscopy

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Knee arthroscopy is a surgical procedure that is used to diagnose and treat knee joint problems such as osteoarthritis, meniscus tears, and ligament damage. It's much less invasive than open surgery, which means people who have this surgery generally recover more quickly and are less likely to suffer from surgical complications.

What is Arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a surgical technique in which a surgeon uses specialised medical instruments to look inside joins without having to make a large open incision in the skin. The medical device that allows them to do this is a kind of endoscope called an arthroscope.

The arthroscope is a long tube with a tiny lighted camera at one end. The other end of the tube connects to a video screen, allowing the camera to transmit images to the screen for the surgeon to view. The arthroscope is small that it can be inserted through a tiny incision in the skin, and manoeuvred into position without causing harm to surrounding tissues. Once the arthroscope is in place, the surgeon can clearly see and work with the joint and its associated tissues.

The arthroscopic technique can be used to diagnose a range of different knee problems, including tears in the meniscus or cruciate ligaments, problems with the patella (kneecap), and others. It can also be used to perform some kinds of repair surgery, such as ligament and meniscus repair, and sometimes even knee replacement surgery.

Arthroscopy for the Knee Joint

Arthroscopic surgery can be performed on a patient under general or local anaesthetic depending on the requirements of the procedure. If the patient is awake during the surgery they typically receive some sedation to help them relax.

In the first phase of surgery the surgeon starts by making small incisions in the skin around the knee joint. Next, sterile saline is pumped in to the knee via the incisions. This expands the tissues of the knee and makes it easier for the surgeon to examine the joint. Next, the arthroscope is inserted into the knee via one of the incisions, and the surgeon examines the joint. If the procedure is purely diagnostic, the surgeon will remove the arthroscope, drain the saline, and close the incisions.

If the procedure also includes some surgery to the knee joint the surgeon continues working, using miniature surgical tools that fit through the small incisions. Depending on what they find in the diagnostic part of the procedure, this might be removal of damaged tissue, meniscus or ligament repair, or something else.

Recovering from Arthroscopic Surgery

The recovery time for arthroscopic surgery varies from person to person depending on the kind of surgery they've had, but in general it takes less time to recover from an arthroscopic procedure than it does to recover from an open surgery. For instance, many people who have arthroscopic knee surgery can go home the same day, unless they need to remain in hospital for rehabilitation purposes.

There are still risks associated with arthroscopic surgery, of course, just as there are with all kinds of surgery. Risks such as infection, excessive bleeding, and allergic reactions to anaesthesia or medications are a risk with arthroscopic surgery as they are with open surgery.

While recovery is generally faster and less painful, most people do still experience some pain and joint stiffness after knee arthroscopy. This is especially true if they've had a procedure such as meniscus or ligament repair, or knee replacement surgery. These procedures repair major damage to the knee, so they still require a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation period even when the procedure is completed using arthroscopic tools and techniques.


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