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What is Knee Arthroscopy?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Knee arthroscopy is a surgical procedure where the knee joint treated via a long wire or tube with a camera on the end. "Arthro" refers to a joint and "scopy" refers to viewing with a camera. Typically, knee arthroscopy is used to diagnose and treat orthopedic conditions, such as a torn meniscus, bone or cartilage fragments, and torn ligaments. The procedure also helps diagnose chondromalacia, a type of damage to the surface of a joint, and certain types of arthritis.

By providing a detailed and clear image of the knee, arthroscopy helps orthopedic surgeons determine the best treatment for the patient's problem. Knee reconstruction, for example, may be deemed necessary after arthroscopy. Some symptoms that may warrant knee arthroscopy are persistent knee pain; swelling; catching, or locking of the knee; and knee instability. If the patient frequently uses pain medications, such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, or is involved in a physical therapy treatment program without relief, he may be a candidate for knee arthroscopy.

Generally, knee arthroscopy is performed in an outpatient setting. Anesthesia is administered though depending on the particular case, local, regional, or general anesthesia may be used. Local anesthesia numbs the knee, regional anesthesia numbs the patient below the waist, and general anesthesia puts the patient completely under. If the patient is given a local or regional anesthetic, he may be able to watch the knee surgery on a monitor if he desires.

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Typically, knee arthroscopy involves the surgeon making a few small cuts or incisions on the knee, and then filling the knee with a liquid. The liquid helps provide a clear view of the knee. The orthopedic surgeon then will insert the arthroscope to view and diagnosis the abnormality. If surgical intervention is needed, the surgeon may use a variety of small instruments to correct the problem through another incision.

Usually, when knee arthroscopy is completed, the surgeon will close the incisions with either paper tape or sutures and bandage them with sterile dressings. After the surgical incisions are treated, the patient is typically moved to the recovery area, where he will be monitored for bleeding and changes in vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. Patients are typically released in about two hours.

Upon discharge, the surgeon may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection and will give the patient instructions as to when he can bear weight on his affected knee. Postoperative problems may arise, such as infection, bleeding, blood clots, and pooling of blood in and under the knee. Most often, these problems are rare, and treatable.

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