What You Can Expect From Your Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

Posted on: 27 February 2015

You have a knee injury and your orthopedic doctor has recommended arthroscopy to correct the problem. This is a safe and effective alternative to major knee surgery and is often done as an outpatient. It still has some risks, as does any kind of surgery, but fewer than traditional surgical approaches. Here is what you can expect before, during, and after your arthroscopic knee surgery.

Days Before the Surgery

All of the blood tests and X-rays that your doctor needs will be done several days before the surgery. They will assess your physical health to make sure you are a good candidate for arthroscopy. If have other medical conditions, such as heart disease, your doctor may want you to have the surgery in the hospital.

The Day Before Surgery

Your doctor will ask you not to eat or drink anything after midnight. If you take prescription medications, you can have enough water to get them down. You may be asked to stop taking certain medications for a day or two before surgery, such as blood thinners.

The Day of Surgery

You will need to have someone take you to the appointment and take you home afterwards. The procedure will likely be done at the doctor's office or clinic. When you arrive and check in, you'll be given some surgical consent forms to read and sign. Do read them carefully as they state the risks of the procedure. Don't hesitate to ask questions until you understand everything.

You'll likely meet with the anesthesiologist first. Your doctor can do the procedure using any one of three types of anesthetic:

  • local anesthesia — This is injected into your knee joint so you won't feel anything during the work being done.
  • regional anesthesia — This is an injection into your lower back and makes you numb below the waste.
  • general anesthesia — This puts you to sleep during the procedure.

You may get to choose the type of anesthesia you want. Local and regional anesthesia allow you to watch the procedure as it is being done. If you're squeamish at all, you might prefer the general anesthesia.

Once you decide on the type of anesthesia, you'll be placed on a comfortable chair or table to begin the procedure.

The Arthroscopic Procedure

Your doctor will make one or more small incisions in your knee into which they will insert the arthroscope to see inside the knee, and instruments used to correct the knee problems. You may be able to see what the doctor sees on a monitor. The tools are used to remove pieces of bone, cartilage or ligaments that may have been damaged. They can also repair torn ligaments and cartilage with this technique.

Once the procedure is done, the incisions will be stitched closed and a small bandage used to cover the incisions. You'll be taken to a recovery area for a couple of hours while the anesthesia completely wears off. Your doctor will make a final check on you and instruct you on what to watch for over the next few days. You'll then be able to go home.

Your Recovery at Home

Your will have to stay off of your knee for a few days. Crutches are OK, as long as you don't put direct weight on the knee. Your doctor will tell you when you can start putting weight on the knee and when you can drive. This all depends on the extent of the surgery.

You'll also monitor your knee and incisions for a few days. If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:

  • drainage from the incisions
  • redness and swelling
  • increasing pain in your knee
  • warmth over the incisions
  • pain in your calf muscles

These may be signs of infection and your doctor will need to examine your knee and start you on antibiotics.

You'll be given some pain medication when you leave the clinic. Your doctor may also recommend an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication once the pain has gone.

You'll also receive instructions on physical therapy to do when your knee has healed. This exercises the muscles in your knee to strengthen them and to get full range of motion from your knee.

Advancements in arthroscopy techniques make this the preferred choice over major surgery for the knee. You'll recover must faster and have fewer risks of post-surgical infection. Talk to a professional like Noyes Knee Institute for more information.