Knee Arthroscopy Overview

Knee arthroscopy is a surgical treatment used by orthopedic surgeons to get a detailed view of the knee joint without making large skin incisions and cutting soft tissues. Moreover, knee arthroscopy allows the surgeon to further treat the knee with minimally invasive procedures.

How is knee arthroscopy performed?

During knee arthroscopy, the knee surgeon inserts a small fiber-optic video camera, called an arthroscope, into the knee joint. The camera displays the inside of the knee on a video monitor where the surgeon can see all details. Along with the camera, the surgeon also uses pencil-thin instruments to grasp, cut, grind, and provide suction as needed for the knee treatment. The arthroscope and the instruments are very thin. Thus, the incisions are small, and there is almost no scarring after knee arthroscopy. Additionally, the knee arthroscopy allows the patients a faster recovery with less pain and less joint stiffness. Depending on the knee condition and the patient’s overall health, the knee arthroscopy can be performed with:
  • Local anesthesia used to numb the knee
  • Regional anesthesia that numbs the body below the waist
  • General anesthesia that puts the patient to sleep
In most patients, the length of the knee arthroscopy procedure is less than an hour. However, it mostly depends on the findings during the procedure and the treatment required to address those newly discovered issues.  

Recovery after knee arthroscopy

Most patients leave the hospital the same day. For patients who don’t experience complications during or after surgery, the recovery period is significantly shorter than the one followed by traditional open surgery. After the procedure, the knee doctor provides the patient a detailed list of instructions regarding:
  • Pain management
  • Dressing care
  • Bearing weight and assisted walking
  • Physical therapy
The instructions vary depending on the surgeries performed and the overall patient’s condition after the surgery. Following the instructions precisely is the key to a successful and smooth recovery after knee arthroscopy.  

Conditions treated with knee arthroscopy

Knee arthroscopy is used to both diagnose and treat knee conditions. Usually, when the imaging scans don’t provide the details needed to diagnose the knee, the knee surgeon utilizes the knee arthroscopy to get inside the knee joint and get an extensive insight. Knee arthroscopy may relieve painful symptoms of various knee problems that can cause severe damage to the ligaments and the tissues surrounding the joint. The list of common problems treated with knee arthroscopy includes:
  • Removal or repair of a torn meniscus
  • Reconstruction of a torn anterior cruciate ligament
  • Removal of inflamed synovial tissue
  • Trimming of damaged articular cartilage
  • Removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage
  • Treatment of patella (kneecap) problems
  • Treatment of knee sepsis (infection)


The knee arthroscopy has a high success rate. Most patients return to full, unrestricted activities shortly after knee arthroscopy. However, the recovery will depend on the type and severity of the damage found in the knee. Typically, the recovery period lasts between 6 and 8 weeks. It is even less in patients with minor procedures. Activities that highly impact the knee will be avoided until the knee is strong enough to bear the pressure. Patients who undergo more complex surgeries or experience complications may take longer until they are ready to get back to normal life. All patients should always discuss the recovery period with their knee surgeon in detail. It’s important to start slowly after knee arthroscopy. The surgeon will determine if and when the knee is ready to take the activities to the next level.