What is Knee Arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is surgery that uses a tiny camera called an arthroscope to look inside your knee. Small cuts are made to insert the camera and small surgical tools into your knee for the procedure.

Knee arthroscopy can be done to investigate and/or correct the problems of the knee

The arthroscope allows doctors to inspect the joint for damage. As the procedure requires very small cuts in the skin, it gives arthroscopy some advantages over more invasive surgeries.

Knee arthroscopy surgery has recently gained popularity because it usually requires shorter recovery times. The procedure typically takes less than 1 hour, and serious complications are uncommon.


Uses and benefits

Knee arthroscopy is less invasive than open forms of surgery. We can diagnose issues and operate using a very small tool, an arthroscope, which they pass through an incision in the skin.

Knee arthroscopy surgery may be helpful in diagnosing a range of problems, including:

  • persistent joint pain and stiffness
  • damaged cartilage
  • floating fragments of bone or cartilage
  • a buildup of fluid, which must be drained

In most of these cases, arthroscopy is all that is needed. People may choose it instead of other surgical procedures because arthroscopy often involves:

  • less tissue damage
  • a faster healing time
  • fewer stitches
  • less pain after the procedure
  • a lower risk of infection, because smaller incisions are made

However, arthroscopy may not be for everyone. There is little evidence that people with degenerative diseases or osteoarthritis can benefit from knee arthroscopy.


Why the Procedure Is Performed

Arthroscopy may be recommended for these knee problems:

  • Torn meniscus. Meniscus is cartilage that cushions the space between the bones in the knee. Surgery is done to repair or remove it.
  • Torn or damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).
  • Swollen (inflamed) or damaged lining of the joint. This lining is called the synovium.
  • Kneecap (patella) that is out of position (misalignment).
  • Small pieces of broken cartilage in the knee joint.
  • Removal of a Baker cyst. This is a swelling behind the knee that is filled with fluid. Sometimes the problem occurs when there is swelling and pain (inflammation) from other causes, like arthritis.
  • Repair of defect in cartilage.
  • Some fractures of the bones of the knee.

How to prepare

Exercise: We recommend a tailored preparation plan, which includes gentle exercises.

Medications: You may need to stop taking some medications ahead of the surgery. It is important for a person to discuss the medications that the patient is taking especially Ibuprofen or other painkillers. We may prescribe a few medications before the initiation of Surgery

Diet / Food: You need to stop eating up to 12 hours before the procedure, especially if they will be general anaesthesia (Very Rare). We provide more information about what a person is allowed to eat or drink.



We use anaesthetic to numb the pain and the type will depend on the extent of the arthroscopy.

A local anaesthetic may be used to numb the affected knee only. If both knees are affected, we may use a regional anaesthetic to numb from the waist down.

You are awake during this procedure and may also see the procedure on the screen. This is entirely optional as some people may not be comfortable viewing this.

In some rare cases, we use a general anaesthetic. In this case, you will be completely asleep during the procedure.

  • The procedure starts with a few small cuts in the knee.
  • A pump is used to push the saline solution into the area. This expands the knee, making it easier for us to see the joint.
  • After the knee is expanded, the arthroscope is inserted. The attached camera allows the surgeons to explore the area and identify any problems. This may confirm earlier diagnoses, and we may take pictures for documentation.
  • If the problem can be fixed with arthroscopy, we will insert small tools through the arthroscope and use them to correct the issue.
  • After the problem is fixed, the surgeons will remove the tools, use the pump to drain the saline from the knee and stitch up the incisions.
  • In many cases, the procedure takes less than 1 hour.


Like any surgery, knee arthroscopy poses some risks, though serious complications are uncommon.

A person has an increased risk of infection and excessive bleeding during and after the surgery.

The use of anesthesia also comes with risks. In some people, it may cause allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.

Some risks are specific to knee arthroscopy. They include:

  • chronic stiffness in the knee
  • accidental damage to tissues and nerves
  • infection inside the knee
  • bleeding in the joints
  • blood clots

These risks are uncommon, and most people recover without incident.


Recovering from arthroscopy is usually quicker than recovering from open surgery. Most people leave the hospital on the day of the operation with specific instructions about how to handle recovery.

A person may be able to return to light activity in 1–3 weeks and resume most other physical activities in 6–8 weeks..

General recovery tips can include:

  • applying ice packs to the dressing and surrounding area to reduce swelling and pain
  • keeping the leg elevated for several days after surgery
  • resting well and often
  • changing the dressing regularly
  • using crutches and following the doctor’s recommendations about applying weight to the knee


Before and after knee arthroscopy surgery, exercises can help. Working with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles around the knee may help the knee to fully recover.

Doctors may also teach a person some simple stretches and exercises to do at home.

Exercises are a crucial part of treatment. They are needed to restore the knee’s full strength and range of motion.

The choice of exercises will depend on the extent of the problem and a person’s overall condition. It is essential to speak with a doctor or physical therapist before trying exercises at home.



Full recovery after knee arthroscopy will depend on what type of problem was treated.

Problems such as a torn meniscus, broken cartilage, Baker cyst, and problems with the synovium are often easily fixed. Many people stay active after these surgeries.

Recovery from simple procedures is fast in most cases. You may need to use crutches for a while after some types of surgery. Your provider may also prescribe pain medicine.

Recovery will take longer if you have had a more complex procedure. If parts of your knee have been repaired or rebuilt, you may not be able to walk without crutches or a knee brace for several weeks. Full recovery may take several months to a year.

If you also have arthritis in your knee, you will still have arthritis symptoms after surgery to repair other damage to your knee.