Your Guide to Knee Arthroscopy

If you have excruciating knee pain even after attempting a number of conservative treatment options, it may be time to consider knee surgery. A knee arthroscopy is a procedure that allows the doctor to view the knee without the need for a large incision through the skin and other supporting soft tissue. An arthroscopy is able to diagnose a wide range of knee problems. 

During the procedure, a surgeon will insert a 4 mm camera-like device, known as an arthroscope, into your knee joint. Images from the arthroscope are displayed on a video monitor with 4K clarity, and miniature surgical instruments are guided using these images. 

Arthroscopic techniques require much smaller incisions than traditional open treatments for knee injuries. This results in less pain, less scarring and less joint stiffness in patients after surgery. At BEST, our board-certified surgeons are able to perform knee arthroscopy for our patients. In addition, we believe patient education is one of the most important steps in a patient’s journey to recovery. Read through this guide if you would like to learn more about knee arthroscopy.

Anatomy of the Knee

Before delving into the specifics of knee arthroscopy, it is vital to understand how the knee works and all the components that make up the knee. Your knee is the largest, most complex joint in the body. There are three bones that make up the knee: the lower end of the femur (thighbone), the upper end of the tibia (shinbone), and the patella (kneecap).

Other important structures that make up the knee joint include

  • Articular cartilage. The ends of the femur and tibia and the back of the patella are covered with articular cartilage. This slippery substance helps your knee bones glide smoothly across each other as you bend or straighten your leg.
  • Synovium. Surrounding the knee joint is a thin lining known as synovium. This lining releases a fluid that lubricates the cartilage and reduces friction during movement.
  • Meniscus. Two wedge-shaped pieces of meniscal cartilage between the femur and tibia act as shock absorbers. Different from articular cartilage, the meniscus is tough and rubbery to help cushion and stabilize the joint.
  • Ligaments. Ligaments connect bones to other bones. The four main ligaments in your knee act like strong ropes to hold the bones together and keep your knee stable.
    • The two collateral ligaments are found on either side of your knee.
    • The two cruciate ligaments are found inside your knee joint. They cross each other to form an X with the anterior cruciate ligament in front and the posterior cruciate ligament in the back.
  • Tendons. Muscles are connected to the bones through tendons which allow the joint to move when the muscle contracts.

When Knee Arthroscopy is Recommended

At BEST, we view any surgical procedure as a last-resort treatment option. With this in mind, knee arthroscopy will only be recommended to patients who have not found the proper relief despite exploring conservative treatment options. Conservative options can include rest, physical therapy, medications, or injections that can reduce inflammation. 

A knee arthroscopy may relieve painful symptoms caused by cartilage damage and other soft tissue damage around the joint.

Common arthroscopic procedures for the knee include:

  • A partial meniscectomy (removal of the meniscus), repair of a torn meniscus, or meniscus transplantation
  • Reconstruction of a torn anterior cruciate ligament or posterior cruciate ligament
  • Removal of inflamed synovial tissue 
  • Trimming or reconstruction of damaged articular cartilage
  • Removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage, like those caused by synovial chondromatosis
  • Treatment of patella (kneecap) problems
  • Treatment of knee sepsis (infection)

What to Expect from Surgery

Although surgery can be cause for concern, our goal at BEST is to make sure everything runs smoothly for our patients. Before determining if you need a knee arthroscopy, a number of evaluations will be performed before going through with the surgery. Your doctor will review your symptoms, medical and family history, and the type of activities you perform for work, exercise and hobbies. All these will factor into whether knee arthroscopy is right for you. Your general health will also be assessed before the procedure. 

In addition, you may have to undergo preoperative tests such as blood tests or an electrocardiogram (EKG).

Once the procedure has been decided it will be performed on an outpatient basis. A knee arthroscopy allows surgeons to avoid having to cut through muscles, tendons, and ligaments which traditional open-knee surgery techniques often require. This can help surgeons perform the following types of procedures: 

  • Diagnostic evaluations to see the damage that might not show up on an MRI or other imagery
  • Removal or repair of knee cartilage, such as a torn meniscus or articular cartilage
  • Repair or reconstruction of ligaments such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Removing synovial tissue that has become inflamed
  • Removing loose bone and cartilage fragments 

A typical procedure lasts about an hour or less but can vary from patient to patient. After receiving detailed post-operative instructions, patients normally return home within an hour or two. A key part of the recovery process is physical therapy and rehabilitation, which helps patients regain strength and function in their knees. 

How BEST Health System Can Help

At BEST Health System, we can perform knee arthroscopy as well as a number of other procedures. We take pride in our minimally invasive surgical options. Dr. Girton and Dr. Abbott, the board-certified surgeons at BEST, perform our procedures on an outpatient basis. Compared to traditional surgery, our minimally invasive procedures are much more effective. We use muscle-sparing techniques which result in a shorter recovery time, less risk for complication, and eliminate the need for an overnight hospital stay. 

In addition to minimally invasive procedures we also now offer physical therapy as a treatment option as well as MRI on-site for diagnostic imaging when necessary. 

The goal at BEST is to get you back to the activities and lifestyle you love. If you would like to learn more about BEST Health System and what we have to offer, feel free to contact us today.