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Conditions & Treatments

Knee Arthroscopy

The knee is a complex joint that contains bones, articular cartilage, ligaments, the knee cap and the meniscus. Prior to the development of minimally invasive knee arthroscopy, the only way an orthopedic surgeon could visualize and treat these knee structures was with a large incision.

What is knee arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to view the inside of the knee joint for diagnosis and treatment of many knee joint conditions. Frequently arthroscopy eliminates the need for open surgery, a large incision and long recovery.

The arthroscope contains a small camera that is inserted through tiny incisions into the knee joint allowing your OANC surgeon to inspect the joint for damage. When surgery is indicated, small surgical instruments can be inserted to treat the problem.

What are the benefits of knee arthroscopy?

The benefits of knee arthroscopy include reduced trauma and damage to the knee muscles, ligaments and soft tissues, and a reduced risk of serious complications. The result is less pain and joint stiffness, and faster healing, fewer stitches, and faster recovery than open surgery.

When is knee arthroscopy recommended?

Knee arthroscopy is usually recommended when you have a painful knee condition that does not respond to conservative treatment including rest, physical therapy, pain medications and injections to treat inflammation. The goal is to relieve painful symptoms.

Arthroscopic evaluation can diagnosis the of source of persistent joint pain and stiffness, including damaged cartilage, fragments of bone and cartilage that causes pain, and fluid buildup.

Common applications include:

  • Torn Ligaments. Ligament reconstruction is designed to restore stability to the knee. Recovery from reconstructive surgery, coupled with rehabilitation, takes about six months.
  • Meniscus Tears. The meniscus is a shock absorber. Some tears will heal while others will require repair or removal of damaged cartilage and bone floating in the joint to restore function and eliminate pain.
  • Treatment of inflamed synovial tissues. The synovium is a thin lining around the joint that lubricates the cartilage to provide smooth movements. Arthroscopy removes inflamed synovial tissues.
  • Trimming of damaged articular cartilage, the cartilage at the end of the bones.
  • Removal of bone and cartilage fragments.
  • Treatment of the kneecap.
  • Treatment of knee joint infections.

Who is a good candidate?

Your OANC surgeon will review your health history, conduct a physical exam and discuss your symptoms. Not every patient is a candidate for arthroscopic knee surgery. If you have certain health conditions or risks, additional evaluation may be needed. This may include additional
preop testing to ensure you are a good candidate. Healthy patients can have arthroscopy as an outpatient.

The procedure

The type of anesthesia you need will depend on the extent of the procedure. Prior to your surgery your surgeon will decide the best type of anesthesia for you.

A few small incisions are made to insert the arthroscope. The camera allows your OANC surgeon to investigate and identify suspected the problem. Small surgical tools are inserted through the arthroscope and used to repair the problem. Small stitches or small bandaids will be used to close the small incisions. Most knee arthroscopy takes less than an hour.

Complications are rare, generally mild and easily treated. However, this is a surgical procedure and have the same risks as any surgery including infection, blood clots, knee stiffness and blood accumulation in knee.


Post-surgical pain is natural and is part of the healing process. Pain medications may be prescribed for short term pain management. You can expect swelling in the first few days after surgery. You will receive specific instructions on caring for the treated knee after surgery.

Physical therapy and rehabilitation may be ordered to restore strength and mobility. The length of recovery depends on your specific circumstances. Generally, light activity is recommended for the first few weeks, and return to full normal activities can resume within 6-8 weeks, except in the case of ligament reconstruction.

Orthopaedic Associates of Northern California offer arthroscopy for the surgical repair of many common knee conditions with less pain, less blood loss and minimal scarring. That means rapid recovery and improved outcomes, which is why patients are so satisfied with knee arthroscopy.

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