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More commonly known as keyhole surgery, Arthroscopy involves inserting a small camera into a joint through small incisions made in the skin. The surgery can be used to assess joint damage from injuries or to diagnose underlying conditions such as osteoarthritis, as well as to treat some conditions including Baker’s Cyst by using fine surgical tools to release fluid build-up inside a joint.
The surgery is commonly done under general anaesthetic, but can be performed using a local or spinal anaesthetic and can last up to around 45 minutes. This will be discussed with one of our anaesthetists to ascertain what is the best option for the patient. Once numbed, the area is prepped and cleaned thoroughly with antibacterial fluid then a small incision is made so the arthroscope can be inserted.
Additional incisions will be made so that other fine surgical instruments can be placed inside to further examine the joint. Using the arthroscope, the surgeon will examine the inside of the joint and remove any unwanted or damaged tissue. Depending on the extent of the treatment performed in the surgery the recovery time will vary, as when more damaged tissue needs to be removed the affected area will take longer to recover fully.
When the procedure is complete, the arthroscope is removed along with fluid from the joint. The incisions are closed with a few stitches or surgical tape and covered with a sterile dressing. This method is less invasive than open surgery (the small incisions and surgical tape are used to reduce long-term scarring on the patient as well as reducing healing time and chances of infection.) NHS research has shown that serious complications such as infection in the knee Joint only occur in one in every 100 cases using arthroscopic and keyhole surgery.
Knee arthroscopy recovery times can differ according to the type of surgery you have undergone, your general health, aftercare and the amount of strain placed upon the knee joint due to physical exertion after the procedure. Lifestyle and occupation will affect this. These factors mean that a patient’s recovery time can vary from anything between a few days to several months.
After the operation, you will need some time to recover from the effects of the general or local anaesthetic used in the procedure. Patients generally recover from anaesthetic within a 48-hour time frame, and it is recommended that you have someone trusted with you to take you home and stay with you during the first 24 hours of recovery. This is because anaesthetic can make you feel lethargic and light headed for a while after the surgery, this will subside after a day or two.
It is common to feel pain in the joint immediately after surgery, in which case painkillers may be administered by your care provider. The majority of patients who undergo the procedure can leave the hospital the same day or the next morning. Your doctor, nurse or physiotherapist will advise you on aftercare and follow-up treatment, but it is good practice to elevate the joint as often as possible after surgery to aid healing.
Compression bandages are often given to patients to improve blood flow and reduce swelling around the affected area. Crutches and a walker may also be needed after surgery to aid with mobility while recovering. This will also reduce the chance of further injury after the surgery.
Physiotherapy is an important part of the aftercare process, both in terms of recuperating from the procedure and recovering from any underlying health issues diagnosed. After an assessment with a physiotherapist, you will be given further appointments to attend or exercises that you will be able to do at home to speed up the recovery process and that will help the movement of the joint. These sessions and exercises could last up to a few weeks depending on the rate of recovery.
Nominated for the 2016 Laing Buisson Award for Nursing Practice, Highgate Private Hospital is a leading institution on sports injuries and arthroscopic surgery. Highgate has an expansive team of surgeons and consultants who specialise in sports trauma injuries and knee arthroscopy procedures available for consultations at your convenience.