Diseases & Conditions

Arthroscopic Knee Exploration - Knee Arthroscopy

Overview & Description

Knee arthroscopy is a common procedure used to diagnose and treat knee injuries. The surgeon examines the knee with an instrument called an arthroscope. The arthroscope is a pencil-sized tube with a light and camera attached to the end of it. It is inserted into a cut in the knee. An image of the inside of the knee is then seen on a television screen. The surgeon can view the entire knee joint, which may allow him or her to repair certain injuries.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Knee arthroscopy is used to diagnose the cause of pain, swelling, tenderness, or weakness in a person's knee. It may be recommended for a person with:

  • a torn knee cartilage
  • a damaged kneecap
  • a damaged ligament
  • an inflamed or damaged lining of the joint
  • How is the procedure performed?

    Knee arthroscopy is usually done in a same day surgery center. This means the person can go home the same day as the procedure.

    This procedure is done using general anesthesia or local anesthesia. Several small incisions are made in the knee. The surgeon inserts the arthroscope through one of the incisions. Other instruments are inserted through the other incisions. The surgeon can see the ligaments, the cartilage, kneecap, and the lining of the joint. This allows him or her to perform surgery to correct any damage. The small incisions will be closed with stitches or small, sticky pieces of special tape.

    Preparation & Expectations

    What happens right after the procedure?

    After the procedure, the person is taken to a surgery recovery room. Mild discomfort may be felt, and this can be relieved with pain medicine. The person can begin taking fluids if no nausea is present. The affected knee should be elevated on a pillow. An ice pack can be used to decrease the swelling. The person can usually go home within a few hours.

    Home Care and Complications

    What happens later at home?

    Recovery time depends on what is found during the procedure and what was done. Most people go home the same day as their surgery. Crutches may be needed for a while to take weight and pressure off the knee joint. The leg should be kept elevated and ice applied for 10 to 15 minutes at a time for the first 24 to 48 hours. Activity can increase over time depending on the amount of pain and swelling present in the knee. Pain can be managed with pain medicine. If extensive repair of the knee was done, physical therapy may be needed.

    What are the potential complications after the procedure?

    There are potential problems with any surgery or anesthesia. This includes infection, bleeding, and reaction to the medicine used. Nerve injury, causing numbness around the small incisions, may also occur.


    Author:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Written:
    Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
    Edit Date:10/16/02
    Reviewer:Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed:10/16/02




    Maher, Ann. Orthopedic Nursing, Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1994