What is Arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure which uses a thin telescope with a light source (an arthroscope) to look inside joints. As well as being able to look inside, the surgeon can use an arthroscope to perform 'keyhole' surgery. It is used to visualise, diagnose and treat problems inside a joint. Arthroscopy is most often used to investigate or treat knee problems. Arthroscopy can also be used for other joints, including the shoulder, hip, elbow, wrist and ankle joints, and even for hand or foot problems.

During a knee arthroscopy the surgeon makes small cuts in the skin and then inserts pencil- sized instruments that contain a small lens and lighting system to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint. The surgeon can determine the amount or type of injury, and then repair or correct the problem, if it is necessary. The incisions made during a knee arthroscopy are small and so patients can normally avoid a long stay in hospital. Many cases are done as day surgery with the patient returning home the same day.

Recovery time is usually greatly reduced compared to open surgery and depending on what has been treated, within a few days normal use of the knee can be expected.

What conditions can be treated by Knee Arthroscopy?

Many common knee conditions can be corrected through arthroscopy and include torn ligaments, torn cartilage, loose fragments of cartilage and kneecap problems.

Torn Ligament: An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament is a major cause of a wobbly (unstable) knee A torn ligament causes swelling, pain, looseness and a feeling that the knee will 'give away'. Ideally, a badly torn ligament should be reconstructed soon after injury, before repeated injuries tear cartilage or loosen other ligaments.

Torn Cartilage: Within the knee there are a set of C-shaped cushions called the meniscus which act as shock absorbers for the knees and reduce friction during movement. A torn meniscus is the most common knee injury and is a cause of catching, swelling and pain when the knee is rotated. Depending on the size and location of the tear, the cartilage may be trimmed, sutured, or removed. If left untreated, a cartilage tear can lead to arthritis.

Loose bodies: Small pieces of cartilage that have broken off the knee joint's bony surfaces and are floating in the joint. Using special arthroscopic instruments, the loose bodies are located and the removed.

Knee cap problems: the underside of the kneecap is normally lined with smooth cartilage, which can roughen as a result of injury or prolonged wear and tear. The result is pain, swelling and a grinding noise. Surgeons may correct this condition by 'shaving' the irregular, roughened surface of the kneecap.