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Knee arthroscopy surgery

We offer advanced keyhole surgery techniques for the investigation and treatment of knee pain and joint injuries. This includes meniscal (meniscus) tear, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, cartilage damage, ligament repair and osteoarthritis.

Sometimes also called

  • Meniscal tear surgery
  • Cruciate ligament surgery

At a glance

  • Typical hospital stay
    Same-day discharge or 1 night

  • Procedure duration
    30 minutes to 2 hours

  • Type of anaesthetic
    General, spinal or local

  • Available to self-pay?
    Yes

  • Covered by health insurance?
    Yes

Why Spire?

  • Fast access to treatment when you need it
  • Internationally and nationally renowned consultants
  • Clear, inclusive pricing
  • 98% of our patients are likely to recommend us to their family and friends

What is knee arthroscopy?

A knee arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery, which uses a thin, flexible, telescopic instrument called an arthroscope to investigate – and sometimes treat – knee problems. The arthroscope has a light and a tiny video camera on the end, which sends images of the inside of your knee joint to a screen for your orthopaedic surgeon to view.

Your doctor may suggest an arthroscopy if you have the following problems that can’t be diagnosed using a scan or X-ray:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Difficulty moving your knee, especially if this restricts everyday activities and affects your quality of life

Arthroscopy is often used to:

  • Assess damage caused by a sports injury or wear and tear due to osteoarthritis
  • Repair damaged ligaments or torn cartilage
  • Drain excess fluid from around your joint
  • Remove fragments of loose bone or cartilage

Find your nearest Spire hospital

Almost all our hospitals offer knee arthroscopy and have teams of orthopaedic (bone and muscle) surgeons who specialise in this procedure.

Spire Nottingham Hospital

How knee arthroscopy works

The surgery is usually carried out under a general anaesthetic when you’re unconscious. Sometimes you may have a spinal or epidural anaesthetic, when you’re either sedated or awake but can’t feel anything below your waist.

Once your anaesthetic has taken effect, your orthopaedic surgeon will:

  • Clean the skin over your knee
  • Make one or more small incisions into your knee
  • Insert sterile fluid into your knee to expand your joint, if necessary, so it’s easier to view
  • Pass the arthroscope into your knee joint in order to examine it closely
  • Repair any torn cartilage or damaged knee ligaments, or remove any loose bone fragments or scar tissue, using small surgical instruments inserted through other small incisions; fragments are sometimes flushed out with sterile fluid
  • Take samples from the lining of your knee joint if there’s any inflammation present
  • Drain away any fluid that's built up in your knee due to injury or arthritis, along with any fluid injected during the procedure
  • Remove the arthroscope and stitch or tape the incisions

After your procedure

Either on the same day or in a follow-up appointment, your consultant will explain to you what’s been found and whether any other treatment is recommended.

Knee arthroscopy surgery

Watch how a knee arthroscopy surgery takes place

Your operation: what to expect

How long does a knee arthroscopy take?

From 30 minutes to two hours, depending on what’s found.

Anaesthetic choices

Your surgery may be carried out using:

  • General anaesthetic – where you're unconscious
  • Spinal (epidural) anaesthetic – where you're awake but can't feel anything below your waist.
  • Local anaesthetic – where you can't feel your knee

Your consultant will recommend the best option for you, taking into account your wishes.

Pain after knee arthroscopy

Although there’s less pain after an arthroscopy than with traditional surgery, you’re likely to feel discomfort once the anaesthetic wears off. Everyone experiences pain differently and how long it lasts will also depend on whether you had any treatment during the procedure. But, don’t worry, you’ll be given painkillers to help you manage this in the following days.

Your hospital stay

Most people go home on the same day or the following day.

Q & A

Jeremy Jarratt, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Talking about knee arthroscopy surgery

Your recovery: what to expect

As with all keyhole surgery, recovery from a knee arthroscopy will be quicker than with traditional knee surgery. However, the speed at which this happens will depend on the cause of your knee problems and if you had any treatment during the procedure.

Also, if you have an ongoing knee disease or injury needing further treatment, your recovery may take longer than it would otherwise.

It’s totally normal to experience the following in the days and sometimes weeks after an arthroscopy:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Discomfort

Your lifestyle after treatment

You’ll be given crutches to help you get around until the pain and swelling have reduced. Depending on your job, you may be able to return to work after one week and drive again after two weeks. However, you’ll need to avoid strenuous activities or sports for several weeks. Your consultant will advise you.

It’s important to do any exercises your physiotherapist gives you to help strengthen the muscles around your knee, as this will improve your recovery.

Risks and complications

There are fewer risks and complications with a knee arthroscopy than with traditional knee surgery, but all operations carry small risks and your consultant should explain them to you beforehand. The following are fortunately not common:

  • Accidental nerve or tissue damage
  • Allergy to anaesthetics or anaesthetic complications
  • Blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Compartment syndrome, when pressure builds up in a muscle to potentially dangerous levels
  • Excessive bleeding from the wound
  • Excessive bleeding inside the joint
  • Excessive swelling of the joint
  • Fluid leaking from the incisions after seven days
  • Infection inside the joint
  • Persistent pain

At Spire hospitals, your safety is our top priority. We have high standards of quality control, equipment and cleanliness and an ongoing system of review and training for our medical teams.

Treatment and recovery timeline

Although everyone's different, here’s a rough guide to knee arthroscopy recovery time:

View full timeline

Up to 1 night

You’ll be able to leave hospital

1–2 weeks

Return to work and light exercise

Around 2 weeks

May be able to drive (check with your car insurance company)

6 weeks

Return to heavy work and sports

The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.

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