Operative Knee Arthroscopy

What is it?

Knee arthroscopy (AHR-thros-ka-pee) is surgery to look inside your knee joint. It is done by using an instrument called an arthroscope (AHR-throh-skohp). This scope is a long tube with a magnifying glass and a light on the end. You may stay in the hospital for a day after surgery or you may be able to go home the same day. Operative (OP-er-ah-tiv) knee arthroscopy is done to find and fix problems inside your knee.

Picture of a normal knee

What types of knee problems can be helped by having knee arthroscopy?

  • Meniscal repair or meniscectomy. There are two menisci (me-NIS-keye) in the knee that separate the tibia and femur. The tibia is the larger of the two bones in the lower leg. The femur is the thigh bone. The oval-shaped menisci act as shock absorbers and also keep the knee from moving too much. The menisci can stretch or tear. Stretching or tearing can happen especially when the knee is extended at the same time as it is turning. During a meniscal (me-NIS-kl) repair or meniscectomy (men-ih-SEK-toh-mee), menisci can be repaired, or torn pieces can be removed.

  • Patellar debridement. The patella (pah-TEL-ah) is the flat, triangular bone in the front of the knee joint. It is also called the knee cap. The back of the patella is coated with smooth cartilage (KAHR-ti-lij) (tissue) that helps it glide as your knee bends. The patella can be fractured (broken) or get a disease, such as arthritis that can cause the patella cartilage to soften or deform. Patellar (pah-TEL-er) debridement (da-BREED-ment) is a procedure in which the patellar cartilage surface is shaved and smoothed.

  • Lateral release. This is surgery to release tight tissue next to the knee cap. Releasing the tight tissue will help the knee cap to glide more smoothly. It will also decrease pain and prevent the knee cap from becoming dislocated (moving out of its normal place).

  • Removal of loose bodies (pieces). Repeated injury of the knee can break away pieces of bone, ligament, and other tissue. These pieces of loose bone and tissue float around in the knee causing pain, locking, and popping. Caregivers can go into the knee to remove these loose pieces.

  • Synovial biopsy or synovectomy. The inside of the knee joint is lined with tissue called synovium (si-NOH-vee-um). During a synovial (si-NOH-vee-al) biopsy or synovectomy (si-noh-VEK-tah-mee), caregivers may take a piece of the synovium. They will then send it to a lab for tests. They may do this when injury or disease cause problems with the synovium. Some of the synovium can also be taken out if it is damaged.

  • Plica removal. A plica is a band of tissue that can snap and pop and cause knee pain. The plica can be removed during arthroscopy.

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair or reconstruction (ree-kon-STRUK-shun). The anterior (an-TEER-ee-ohr) cruciate (CROO-shee-ayt) ligament (ACL) supports the knee and keeps the joint and bones lined up. The ACL causes you to be able to walk, twist, and turn correctly. The ACL is often torn because of an exercise or sports-related injury. To repair it, caregivers can use a graft (piece of tissue from your body or a donor) to replace the torn ligament.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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