New York Spine Institute Spine Services

Everything to know about knee arthroscopy

Everything to know about knee arthroscopy

Everything to know about knee arthroscopy

By: Timothy T. Roberts, M.D. FAAOS

Dr. Roberts earned his Doctorate of Medicine from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts. He completed his orthopedic residency at Albany Medical College. Dr. Roberts then went on to complete the neurosurgery/orthopaedic spine surgery-combined fellowship at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. Following graduation, Dr. Roberts worked for several years in a large private practice in Florida, but has since returned to his native New York.

Knee arthroscopy surgery is an innovative knee surgery that can be a diagnostic tool or a treatment for damaged portions of the knee. Knee arthroscopy is a less invasive form of knee surgery, allowing patients to return more quickly to their daily activities than traditional knee surgery.

At New York Spine Institute, our specialists provide knee and shoulder arthroscopy to help patients experience a healthy range of motion. We will help you learn more about knee arthroscopy and answer common questions, such as how much does an arthroscopy of the knee cost, what is the recovery time for knee arthroscopy and more.

What Is Knee Arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy of the knee is a form of knee surgery that allows physicians to make a small incision to view the knee joint under soft tissues and skin. Arthroscopy of the knee is a useful diagnostic tool to detect, diagnose and treat various knee problems and conditions. Arthroscopic knee surgery is performed using an arthroscope, a smaller camera that can be safely inserted into the knee joint.

This small camera can display live images onto a screen, allowing the knee surgeon to detect abnormalities and guide minor surgical procedures. The camera and surgical equipment used during knee arthroscopy are small, so there is no large incision, which is often required in traditional open knee surgery.

Fortunately, because knee arthroscopy uses a smaller incision, patients often experience less discomfort and quicker recovery times. A smaller incision can also lead to less swelling, inflammation and stiffness, promoting quicker and more comfortable recovery and allowing patients to return to their daily routine quicker.

While knee arthroscopy is a versatile diagnostic tool and treatment, it is commonly used to detect various knee complications, including a misaligned kneecap or torn meniscus. In some cases, knee surgeons may also perform knee arthroscopy to repair damaged joint ligaments. Knee arthroscopy is a safe procedure with a positive outlook for most patients. While there is risk associated with any treatment or surgery, there are very minimal risks associated with knee arthroscopy.

Why You Need Knee Arthroscopy

In most cases, you may need knee arthroscopy if you have a painful or limiting knee condition that does not get better with time or nonsurgical treatments. While knee arthroscopy is a safe, effective treatment, many physicians will first recommend nonsurgical treatment options before considering a surgical treatment modality. Popular nonsurgical knee treatments include rest, medications, physical therapy and injections to reduce chronic pain and swelling.

If pain or discomfort has not responded to nonsurgical treatments, knee arthroscopy may be right for you. In some cases, your doctor may know your diagnosis before performing knee arthroscopy and perform the surgery as a way to alleviate inflammation and discomfort. On the other hand, your physician may not know the cause of your knee pain and suggest knee arthroscopy to determine what may be causing you discomfort.

Knee arthroscopy is an important tool for diagnosing knee treatments and relieving painful symptoms caused by a knee condition. Knee surgery can help relieve inflammation and uncomfortable symptoms that negatively impact a patient’s daily life. During knee arthroscopy, a knee surgeon can also assess any damage to the soft tissues, cartilage or ligaments surrounding the joint.

Some of the most common conditions knee arthroscopy can help diagnose include treating knee infections, knee cap problems and a torn meniscus. A knee surgeon may also trim damaged articular cartilage or remove any loose bone or cartilage fragments that may be causing discomfort. Finally, knee arthroscopy surgery can also help to remove swollen synovial tissue or repair a damaged anterior cruciate ligament.

What to Expect After Knee Arthroscopy Surgery

After knee arthroscopy, the overall recovery time will depend on the patient, why knee surgery is being performed, and whether it is done on one or both kneecaps. Following knee arthroscopy, you should make sure to rest and use pillows to raise your leg and ankle above heart level. While rest is essential, especially at the beginning, light exercise like walking can be beneficial once you have been cleared to do so by your knee surgeon.

Depending on the details of your surgery, you may need to use crutches or wear a brace as your knee heals. After knee arthroscopy, you may be able to return to light work, such as a desk job, within a few days. If your job is more physically demanding or you stand for extended periods, you may not be able to return to work for a few weeks or even months, depending on your healing rate.

Approximately two to three days after knee arthroscopy, you can carefully clean your incisions with water and soap. Avoid soaking the incision or taking a bath until your physician says you can. Follow any postoperative instructions from your knee surgeon to ensure a quick recovery and overall good health.

How Safe Is a Knee Arthroscopy?

The overall risk of knee arthroscopy is relatively low, and most patients do not experience any complications or severe side effects. The likelihood of serious or long-term complications or side effects is very uncommon.

While knee arthroscopy is a safe procedure, there are minor common risks you should be aware of, including:

  • Inflammation: This is one of the most common side effects patients feel following knee arthroscopy. Some patients may experience knee inflammation before knee arthroscopy, which may persist during the recovery period. In some cases, patients may even experience worsening or more pronounced swelling. Knee inflammation may occur from an infection or bleeding within the joint. Following postoperative care instructions can reduce the potential for swelling and inflammation.
  • Stiffness: Another common side effect many patients feel following knee arthroscopy is knee and leg stiffness. Stiffness may develop due to scar tissue forming around the knee joint or if persistent inflammation irritates the joint. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to minimize stiffness and restore patients’ proper range of motion in some cases.
  • Limited mobility: Following knee arthroscopy, patients will need to rest and avoid placing excess strain and pressure on the knees and legs. Because of these limitations, many patients may experience less mobility and a shorter range of motion as they heal following surgery. Patients with physically active or demanding jobs often cannot return to work for a few weeks to months.
  • Cartilage damage: Some patients who receive knee arthroscopy experience damage to the knee joint’s cartilage. In most cases, arthroscopic surgery is not recommended as a treatment for knee arthritis, as it can progress or worsen these symptoms. Patients with arthritis who undergo knee arthroscopy may experience quicker progression of arthritic symptoms following surgical intervention.

How Long Does a Knee Arthroscopy Surgery Take?

The average time it takes to perform knee arthroscopy is approximately 30 minutes, but this time may vary between patients. In some cases, knee arthroscopy may take up to 45 minutes to perform, depending on the unique details of a patient’s case. The entire procedure time also depends on what kind of anesthesia is used for knee arthroscopy.

In most cases, patients often receive general anesthesia for knee arthroscopy, but some procedures require a spinal anesthetic. During knee arthroscopy, a knee surgeon will place three to four small incisions along the knee to gently insert special equipment in the knee. Sterile salt water is also introduced into the knee joint with tubing so the surgeon can get a clear view of the knee joint.

How Long Does It Take to Recover From Arthroscopic Knee Surgery?

On average, the recovery time for knee arthroscopy is approximately six weeks. If a surgeon has repaired damaged tissues within the knee, the recovery period may be longer. During the recovery period, you will need to limit the amount of activity you perform daily as your knee heals. In some cases, a knee surgeon may also recommend physical rehabilitation to strengthen the leg and knee.

Because each person heals at a different rate, some patients may need more or less time to recover from knee arthroscopy fully. After arthroscopic knee surgery, it is of the utmost importance to follow your physician’s directions and care guidelines. It is quite normal to feel tired or have low energy for the first few days after surgery.

Additionally, many patients also experience mild discomfort, swelling and inflammation in and around the knee. The incisions may also be red or irritated as they heal. Mild swelling is normal and typically improves within a few days after surgery. If you experience intense pain or severe swelling, you should immediately notify your physician to prevent complications.

Is Knee Arthroscopy Painful?

Knee arthroscopy is performed under anesthesia to ensure patient safety and comfort during surgery. Following surgery, it is common for patients to experience some level of mild discomfort as they recover. In most cases, pain and discomfort are minor and can be improved with over-the-counter or prescription pain medication and rest.

Intense, excessive or sudden pain following knee surgery often occurs if a person is overstimulating a healing knee. Spending too much time or applying too much pressure on a healing knee may cause pain or discomfort to worsen. Excess inflammation and swelling are also leading causes of knee discomfort after arthroscopic surgery.

While it is normal for patients to experience mild swelling, soreness and discomfort after knee surgery, they should immediately report any severe or intense symptoms to their physician. As the knee heals, patients will be able to slowly add more activity back to their daily lives once approved to do so by their physician.You should avoid periods of extended standing or walkingr the first few days to allow your knee to heal.

How Long Does Inflammation From Knee Arthroscopy Last

After surgery, one of the most important things to understand is how much swelling is normal after knee arthroscopy. The length of time inflammation lasts also depends on how long it takes to recover from knee arthroscopy, which varies on a patient-to-patient basis. Swelling is a common side effect following knee arthroscopy that affects most patients.

While inflammation may initially be concerning, it will quickly improve in time. It is normal for swelling to increase for the first few days after surgery before improving. Some patients may notice inflammation improves within a week following surgery. In some cases, patients may need a few weeks for swelling to improve completely. If you notice your knee becomes hot to the touch or intensely red and causes severe pain, you should contact your physician immediately to ensure no dangerous complications occur.

How to Reduce Swelling After Knee Arthroscopy

After knee surgery, thousands of cells are sent to the surgical site as the body enters its first stage of healing. This first stage of healing is known as the inflammatory phase. Your physician may recommend various tips and tricks to alleviate excess swelling, including:

  • Ice compresses: One of the most common ways to reduce knee swelling, inflammation and even discomfort is to apply ice to the surgical site. If cleared by your physician, you can use a cold pack or ice on your knee for 10 to 20 minutes every one to two hours. To avoid irritation when applying ice, you can place a thin towel or cloth between the ice pack and your skin.
  • Leg elevation: When resting, it is important to elevate your leg above your heart. You can put a pillow or two or a couple of folded blankets under your leg to safely and comfortably elevate your leg. Before elevating your leg, you should check with your knee surgeon and discuss safe positions if your physician believes you may benefit from this.
  • Physical therapy: Another common recommendation from knee surgeons is physical therapy after initial healing. In some cases, these may be simple exercises you can perform alone at home. In other cases, your physician may recommend you go to physical therapy sessions with a trained professional.

How Long Before I Can Drive After Knee Arthroscopy?

When you can drive after knee arthroscopy depends on your rate of healing and why you underwent knee arthroscopy. Your physician can help you determine how long after knee arthroscopy you need to wait to drive. Following knee arthroscopy, patients cannot drive as long as they are wearing a brace or cast.

If patients experience pain when bearing weight on their knees, they should also avoid driving. In most cases, patients typically need to wait four weeks until their knee has healed enough to use the brake and gas pedals effectively. While this guideline is a helpful timeframe, some patients may require additional time to heal before driving again.

Driving is a necessary part of many patients’ daily lives, but operating a vehicle should be avoided until cleared by a physician. Driving too soon can be dangerous and irritate your knee, prolonging the healing process. In all cases, it is better to wait longer than needed before driving again rather than start driving too early and risk damage to your knee.

How Long to Wear Compression Stockings After Knee Arthroscopy

Patients may improve postoperative inflammation and swelling by wearing compression stockings. Compression stockings can facilitate the rehabilitation process following arthroscopic knee surgery. On average, patients typically wear compressions stockings for three to ten days

Your healthcare provider may place compression stockings on your leg following knee arthroscopy or provide them to bring home. Your knee surgeon will give you detailed use instructions, including how often to wear the compression stockings. In most cases, patients will wear compression stockings most of the day and only take them off when showering or going to bed.

The fit of compression stockings is very important, as it directly influences if the stockings are effective at reducing inflammation. Compression stockings should feel a little tight and firm around the leg but not have any creases or wrinkles. Patients should not roll down, cut or alter compression stockings unless directly instructed to by their knee surgeon.

Usually, patients should wear their compression stockings for a minimum of three days until the swelling goes down some. During follow-up appointments, your physician can help determine how much longer you will need to wear compression stockings. Following your surgeon’s instructions on compression stockings can help minimize swelling and facilitate healing.

How Much Does a Knee Arthroscopy Cost?

Pricing depends on multiple factors and varies from patient to patient. On average, knee arthroscopy costs anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 in the United States. Many factors can influence the overall cost of knee arthroscopy. Your knee surgeon can help you determine the estimated costs of knee surgery at their facility. Some of the most important factors to consider that can affect the price of knee arthroscopy include:

  • Insurance: If a patient is uninsured, they will need to pay for the entire procedure out of pocket. Fortunately, medical insurance can cover part or all of the costs associated with knee arthroscopy, depending on the details of your insurance plan. Patients can check with their medical insurance provider to determine what costs may be covered when undergoing knee surgery.
  • Facility setting: There are two main types of facilities — outpatient and inpatient. In simple terms, inpatient facilities require you to stay overnight for monitoring, such as a hospital. Outpatient facilities perform a procedure and send the patient home on the same day as long as there are no complications. Typically, inpatient facilities tend to cost more as the price includes the fees of staying overnight.
  • Location: Medical prices vary greatly depending on the state and city. For example, knee arthroscopy may cost more if performed in Manhattan versus a smaller city in upstate New York. Some patients compare facilities and even travel farther to pay less for a medical procedure.

Planning for Knee Arthroscopy Surgery

There are many things to do after knee arthroscopy, making planning ahead extremely important. Following knee arthroscopy, you may need to use crutches for two to seven days to alleviate pain or pressure from your knee. Your knee surgeon or physical therapist can help you determine when to start physio after knee arthroscopy. How long you need to stay on crutches after knee arthroscopy also depends on the extent of knee surgery.

Crutches and physical therapy can restore a proper range of motion following knee arthroscopy and restore healthy movement within a few weeks. When preparing for knee arthroscopy, you should plan for a period of downtime following your procedure. While you may be able to return to non-intensive activities within a week or two, you will need to avoid intensive activity for at least four weeks and up to six weeks.

Contact New York Spine Institute

At New York Spine Institute (NYSI), our orthopedic doctors are experts at performing knee arthroscopy and shoulder arthroscopy. NYSI is one the largest tri-state, multi-specialty orthopedic and spine centers. We are proud to offer innovative services and state-of-the-art treatments, including:

Our goal is to provide the highest level of care to all of our patients. Request an appointment online today to learn more about our services.