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Knee Arthroscopy

A knee arthroscopy is a medical procedure that is done by making small incisions on your knee. A tiny camera as well as other medical instruments may be used to fix your knee.

Alternative Names

Knee scope - arthroscopic lateral retinacular release; Synovectomy - knee; Patellar (knee) debridement; Meniscus repair; Lateral release; Knee surgery

Procedure Overview

Description of Procedure

Knee Three different types of anesthesia may be used for knee arthroscopy surgery:

  • Spinal or regional anesthesia: This painkilling medication is injected into a space in your spine. You will be awake, but unable to feel anything below your waist.
  • General anesthesia: You will be asleep and pain-free.
  • Your knee may be numbed with painkilling medication. You may also be given medicines to sedate you; however, you will stay awake.

A cuff-like device that inflates around your thigh could possibly be used to help control bleeding during your surgery. The surgeon will make two or three small incisions around your knee. Saline will be pumped into your knee to elongate the knee.

A narrow tube with a small camera attached to the end will be inserted inside through one of the incisions. The camera is attached to a video monitor in the operating room, which will allow the surgeon to see inside of your knee. In some operating rooms, the patient can also view the surgery on the monitor.

The surgeon will look around knee for issues. The surgeon may put other instrumentation inside your knee through the other tiny incisions to fix or remove the problem.

At the end of the procedure, the saline will be drained from your knee. The surgeon will close the incisions with stitches and cover them with a bandage. Several surgeons opt to take photos of the surgery from the video monitor so that you can see what was fixed and/or what was found.

Why the Procedure is Performed

Knee arthroscopy may be recommended for the following problems:

  • Kneecap that is misaligned
  • Swollen or damaged lining of the joint
  • Torn or damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Small pieces of broken cartilage in the knee joint
  • Torn meniscus
  • Removal of Baker’s cyst
  • Some fractures of the bones of the knee

Before Surgery

Before the procedure

Communicate to your doctor or nurse what drugs you are currently taking, as well as any drugs or herbs you have bought without a prescription.

2 weeks before your surgery

  • Ask your doctor what drugs you should still take on the day of the surgery.
  • You may be asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), vitamin E, warfarin (Coumadin), and any other drugs that make it hard for your blood to clot.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if you have been drinking a considerable amount of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 days per day.
  • If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking can delay wound and bone healing.
  • Always let your doctor know about any cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness you may have prior to your surgery.

On the day of your surgery

  • Do not eat anything for 6 to 12 hours before the procedure.
  • Take the drugs your doctor advised you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

    After Surgery

    After the procedure

    Following the surgery, you will have an ace bandage on your knee over the dressing. Most people go home the same day as surgery. Your doctor will give you an exercise program to follow.

    Recovery from this procedure is often quick. You may need to use crutches for a short period of time so that you do not bear weight on your knee as well as control the pain. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medication.

    Recovering from more complex procedures tend to take longer. When anything in your knee is repaired, you may not be able to walk without crutches or a knee brace for several weeks. Full recover may take several months to a year.

    Full recovery after knee arthroscopy is contingent upon on what type of problem was treated. Problems such as a torn meniscus, broken cartilage, Baker’s cyst, and problems with the lining of the joint are typically fixed easily. Most patients remain active after these procedures.

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


    • Bleeding into the knee joint
    • Damage to the cartilage, meniscus, or ligaments in the knee
    • Blood clot in the leg
    • Injury to a blood vessel or nerve
    • Infection in the knee joint
    • Knee stiffness

    View animation

    Joint Arthroscopy (knee)

    The surgery information on this page is intended as an informational resource only. Each patient and surgical situation is different. Patients should discuss details of a surgery, recovery and pain management with their doctor(s).

    The information provided above should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.