What is Knee Arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical technique. 2 or 3 portals, each less than a half an inch in size, are established around the knee. An arthroscope, or medical camera the size of a pencil, is inserted through a portal and used to view the inside of the knee. Through another portal, small instruments are used to help diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions.

Arthroscopy is also commonly used to treat conditions in other joints, such as the shoulder, ankle, and hip. In the knee, arthroscopy is used to treat meniscus tears, ligament tears, and  fractures. Compared to open surgery, arthroscopy allows the surgeon to better visualize and treat the condition, minimizes postoperative scarring thus accelerating range of motion gains, results in less pain, and has a lower risk of infection and postoperative blood clots. Dr. Cunningham is a knee surgeon at Vail Summit Orthopedics and Neurosurgery. He is an expert at diagnosing and treating a wide range knee injuries for patients in Vail, Summit County, Aspen, and Denver, CO.

When is a Knee Scope Needed?

Many injuries can be treated without surgery. Nonsurgical treatments consist of “RICE,” which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Other common non-surgical treatments include knee bracing, anti-inflammatory medications, injections (steroid, platelet rich plasma, or stem cell), and physical therapy.

If the particular condition is known to have better outcomes with surgery, then knee arthroscopy may be recommended . Due to its minimally invasive nature, arthroscopic knee surgery is preferred instead of open surgery.

What Are Some Common Conditions Treated With Knee Arthroscopy?

  • Medial or Lateral Meniscus Tears
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tears
  • Repairing Cartilage Injuries
  • Removing Loose Bodies
  • Smoothing Areas of Worn Cartilage
  • Removing Scar Tissue
  • Repairing Fractures
  • Curing Infection

The benefits of knee arthroscopy are: less pain, limiting stiffness of the knee, and a shorter recovery period. Patients express great satisfaction with arthroscopic knee surgery as they typically report resolution of their pain and symptoms and a full return to their activities.

How is Knee Arthroscopy Performed?

Knee arthroscopy is typically performed on an outpatient basis with no overnight stay. An anesthesiologist will administer a light general anesthetic. For larger arthroscopic procedures, the anesthesiologist may also perform a peripheral nerve block, where numbing medicine is placed around the nerves that supply the knee and leg. Once anesthetized, the patient is properly positioned. A special surgical leg holder is used to secure the affected leg. The leg is sterilized with a strong antibacterial solution. Sterile drapes are placed over the leg to keep the entire leg sterile. Several small incisions or surgical portals are then made around the knee to gain access to the knee. An arthroscope is insterted into the knee and the view of the knee is projected onto a screen. Dr. Cunningham then thoroughly inspects all parts of the knee, confirms the diagnosis, and proceeds with all necessary repairs. Simple knee repairs, such as removing a loose body or trimming a flap of degenerative meniscus, are completed within an hour. More complex repairs such as reconstructing a torn ACL and repairing an associated meniscus tear may take 2 hours. After the repairs are completed arthroscopically, the small incisions are closed with absorbable suture, sterile dressings are applied, and in some cases, a knee brace is applied.

After the procedure, the patient is taken from the operating room to the recovery room, where a nurse attends to the patient while the anesthesia wears off. During this time, your vital signs are monitored. Patients are then allowed to drink and eat a snack. You are then assisted while you get up and walk. Depending on the procedure, crutches and a knee brace may be required. Typically, patients are released within 2 hours after the conclusion of their surgery. Although knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive treatment with a quicker recovery time compared to open surgery, it is vital for patients to follow all post-operative instructions given by Dr. Cunningham and his team.

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What is Knee Scope Surgery Recovery Time?

For most conditions treated with knee arthroscopy, patients are allowed to immediately put full weight on the knee as well as start physical therapy and gentle range of motion exercises. 72 hours after the procedure, all the sterile dressings can be removed, and one can shower over your surgical wounds. It is important to ice, elevate the knee, and minimize walking and standing in the first few days so as to limit swelling, which will impede the return of range of motion and increase pain. Most patients do not require strong pain medicines. Patients report a full recovery within 4 – 6 weeks following simple knee arthroscopy procedures. Many patients report a high degree of satisfaction with the outcome, and can return to their active lifestyle.  Dr. Cunningham is a knee surgeon at Vail Summit Orthopedics and Neurosurgery. He is an expert at diagnosing and treating a wide range of knee injuries for patients in Vail, Summit County, Aspen, and Denver, CO.

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Dr. Cunningham specializes in the treatment of knee, shoulder, and sports injuries.

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