Knee arthroscopy procedure

What is knee arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is a procedure in which a surgeon makes small incisions into the knee in order to place an arthroscope (a small camera) into the knee joint, without the need of making a large incision.

Arthroscopy is a popular surgical method used to diagnose and treat numerous problems, such as persistent joint pain or an underlying condition like arthritis.  Arthroscopy is often preferred to more invasive surgical procedures due to the positive outcomes it offers to patients. These include reduced pain, a quicker recovery time and return to normal activity level, as well as a lower risk of infection.

When is knee arthroscopy necessary?

A medical professional may advise you to have a knee arthroscopy if you have suffered with pain and previous treatment methods, such as medication, a scan to identify the problem or injections to reduce inflammation, have been attempted without success.

Knee arthroscopies are often carried out after a sports injury has been sustained, or to help conditions such as osteoarthritis. They are also useful in cases of removing damaged cartilage, removing loose fragments of cartilage or tendon and draining any excess fluid.

How is knee arthroscopy carried out?

Prior to undergoing knee arthroscopy, patients usually attend a pre-admission clinic. Here, a decision will be made as to what kind of anaesthetic would best suit you (most commonly general anaesthetic), and you will be advised on important information for the day of your procedure, including what to eat and drink, expected recovery time and any rehabilitation exercises.

Patients undergoing knee arthroscopy will likely be treated as an outpatient, which means they don’t have to stay in hospital overnight. From start to finish, the treatment generally takes between thirty minutes and two hours.

Skin on your knee will be cleaned with antibacterial fluid prior to your procedure in order to minimise the risk of infection.

Your surgeon will make a very small incision in your knee, in order to be able to insert thin surgical instruments. Further small incisions will be made so that the arthroscope can be inserted to examine the area. This is one of the main advantages of arthroscopy; a large incision is not necessary, hence assisting recovery.

After the arthroscope and any surgical instruments have been removed, the incisions are either stitched up or closed using tape, before being covered with a sterile dressing.


Recovering from knee arthroscopy is often very simple, with minimal risk of complications. Should any complications arise, such as an infection or knee stiffness, your surgeon will advise you on the next steps.

If your job is sedentary, you may be able to return to work within one week of your procedure. However, more physically demanding jobs will require a longer period of rest before returning to work.

You should be able to drive between one and three weeks after knee arthroscopy. You will be advised on particular knee exercises to perform regularly in order to aid rehabilitation, as well as timeframes regarding returning to more strenuous activities such as lifting. 

Knee arthroscopy is one of the most common procedures conducted for repairing meniscus and cartilage problems.

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