In the vast majority of cases, you will be able to go home after your arthroscopy, even if it is performed later on in the day. The procedure can be performed under general anaesthesia, local anaesthetic or epidural type anaesthesia or a combination, all of which you can recover from quickly. Discuss with your surgeon which is most appropriate for your personal circumstances.
We encourage you to get up quickly and walk on your operated knee as soon as possible as this has been shown to enhance recovery, and actually reduce any pain after surgery. Usually the surgeon will put some local anaesthetic in the knee joint which can last overnight, independent of what type of anaesthesia was used for the actual operation.
What is a knee arthroscopy?
A knee arthroscopy is a keyhole operation whereby a telescope attached to a camera is placed inside your knee joint through a small puncture wound. Via a second puncture wound, small instruments are inserted to treat the problem inside your knee. The wounds are sufficiently small enough not to need stitches. The wounds normally heal within a couple of weeks and subsequently fade away, hardly leaving a visible scar.
Do I need an anaesthetic?
The operation is normally performed under a light general anaesthetic but can also be performed under a spinal anaesthetic.
The operation takes approximately twenty minutes.
Do I need to prepare for an arthroscopy?
The only preparation required is six hours starvation for the anaesthetic.
How long am I in hospital?
Usually, the operation is performed as a day case procedure requiring a stay in hospital of approximately half a day.
Will my knee be painful afterwards?
The amount of discomfort experienced after the operation depends on how much surgery is required and varies from one individual to another. It is normal for the knee to be a bit swollen and painful for a few days afterwards.
Local anaesthetic is injected into the knee joint and around the skin puncture wound sat the end of the procedure.
Analgesics (Painkillers) are provided to you after the operation.
The majority of the pain should have settled within 2 weeks of the operation.
How much time do I need to take off work?
It is wise to take a few days off sick from work following the operation to allow you to recuperate. You are still capable of taking phone calls and messages during this period if necessary.
Do I need crutches?
Crutches are not necessary following a routine arthroscopy. There are occasions when crutches are prescribed and you should seek advice from your specialist in this regard.
Are there any stitches?
Usually the puncture wounds are left open and do not require stitching. Occasionally there may be a need to stitch the wounds, and your specialist will make arrangements for these to be removed 7 to 10 days after the procedure
Will I need physiotherapy treatment?
You would not usually need physiotherapy treatment.
What is the success of the operation?
Most arthroscopic procedures on the knee are performed for a torn cartilage (meniscus). In general terms the operation has a high success rate in abolishing your pre-operative symptoms. Sometimes the operation is performed to attend to damage to the joint surface. In these instances the success of the operation is less predictable and each case is different. You should seek advice from your specialist in this regard.
What are the complications of the operation?
Thankfully the operation has a low complication rate. There is a very small risk of infection or blood clots. If you have a history of blood clots you should bring it to the attention of your Specialist.
When can I drive?
You are not allowed to drive within 36 hours of an anaesthetic for safety reasons.
In order to drive safely you need to be able to operate the accelerator and foot pedal effectively. If you drive an automatic vehicle and the operation is on your left knee, you can drive after 36 hours.
If the operation is being performed on the right knee you should demonstrate your ability to walk normally and to safely operate the foot pedals. Generally speaking it would be approximately five days before you would normally be able to do so.
When can I travel overseas?
You should be able to travel overseas approximately 4 weeks after a knee arthroscopy providing you have recovered satisfactorily from the operation. It is difficult to predict with certainty prior to the operation that you will be fit to fly.
Every case is different and specific advice should be sought from your Specialist. This should be done before you set a date for surgery.
The above will answer the majority of questions put to us but is not meant to be totally exclusive.
If you have any questions not covered above, please ask your Specialist. He/she is there to help.