Patient Education


Arthroscopy of the knee

The role of Arthroscopy
Knee arthroscopy is often done to confirm a diagnosis. It's usually an outpatient procedure. In most cases, your surgeon can treat your problem at the same time.

The Arthroscope
The arthroscope is a device that looks directly into joints. The arthroscope contains a light source, a camera, and a pathway for fluids. An intense, cool light is beamed into the joint. The camera sends an image of the knee joint to a monitor. Sterile fluid may be used to expand the joint. This makes it easier for the surgeon.

Arthroscopy Procedure
Lab tests may be done before arthroscopy procedures. Just before the arthroscopy, you will receive anesthesia to make you comfortable. Then a few incisions (portals) are made in your knee. The portals are half an inch long or less. An arthroscope is inserted through one portal, and your surgeon looks inside your knee. Knee problems can often be treated with special tools inserted through the other portals.

Risks and Complications
As with any procedure, arthroscopy procedures have risks. These can include swelling and stiffness, bleeding, blood clots, infection or continuing knee problems.

Arthroscopy Recovery

In the recovery room
Your knee will be bandaged, iced, and elevated. Medications will help reduce swelling and pain during your arthroscopy recovery. When you are awake and alert, the nurse will review all discharge instructions and help get you ready to go home.

Going Home
You may go home a few hours after arthroscopy. The anesthesia and pain medication are likely to make you sleepy. So arrange to have someone drive you home. Before leaving, you will receive crutches and be instructed on crutch-walking.

Home Arthroscopy Recovery
At home, follow your surgeon's instructions. He or she may want to see you during the first few weeks after arthroscopy. If needed, you may be referred to a physical therapist to help you regain movement.

  • Relieving Pain
    To reduce swelling and pain, elevate your leg. For the first two days, ice your knee 20-30 minutes a few times a day.

  • Showering
    You can shower once your physician says its ok. You may be asked to cover your leg with plastic to avoid wetting your bandage and incisions. Getting these wet increases your chance of infection.

  • Exercising
    Certain exercises can speed recovery. Your doctor may ask you to walk or perform quadriceps sets and straight leg raises. Use slow steady movements. And always exercise both legs to keep your muscles balanced. A physical therapist may also design an exercise program for you. This will help improve muscle strength and joint function.

Getting Back in Action
Your surgeon's skills, the dedicated arthroscopic unit at BHMC-LR and your own efforts can help you get moving soon. After knee arthroscopy, most people can return to office work within a week. And many return to a more active life within 1-2 months.

Your Arthroscopy Experience

Arthroscopy recovery

Your Orthopedic Evaluation
Your surgeon will ask about the history of your knee problem. You may be asked whether your symptoms began after an injury. You will be examined. In some cases, one or more diagnostic tests may be needed.

Physical Exam
Your knee will be checked for swelling, tenderness and stability. Your knees ability to move (its range of motion) may also be checked.

Diagnostic Tests
X-ray images can show breaks in your bones or abnormal bone structures. X-rays may also show arthritis. Your surgeon may suspect damage to soft tissue. In that case, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be used.

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