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Knee arthroscopy (keyhole surgery)

Knee arthroscopy can diagnose and treat a range of problems that may be causing knee pain.

Knee arthroscopy, also known as keyhole surgery or arthroscopic surgery, can diagnose and treat a range of problems related to your knee joint. A knee arthroscopy can be used to diagnose or treat knee injuries such as:

Other types of knee surgery

There are several types of knee surgery carried out to treat chronic knee pain. These include:

Knee replacement surgery

Knee replacement surgery is a common procedure that involves removing the damaged surface of a deteriorating knee and replacing it with an artificial joint.

Many people suffer from degenerative knee conditions, such as arthritis, which can be controlled by non-surgical methods, for example, painkillers, physiotherapy, or joint injections. 

However, when these treatments are no longer helpful, knee replacement surgery may be the most appropriate option.

ACL reconstruction surgery

ACL reconstruction surgery is a type of knee surgery that involves repairing or reconstructing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). 

The main benefits of surgery are that the knee should no longer give way, function can be restored and your knee will feel stable again. After successful surgery, you should also be able to return to playing sport.

Knee revision replacement surgery

A revision knee replacement involves removing the previous prosthesis and replacing it with a new one.

The objectives of total knee replacement surgery and your revision surgery are still the same – to offer pain relief and to improve the function and stability of your knee.

Lateral release surgery

Lateral release surgery is an arthroscopic knee surgery carried out to help realign your kneecap. It is a minimally invasive procedure that aims to relieve symptoms induced by a partially dislocated kneecap.

Knee pain symptom checker

You might consider knee arthroscopy surgery, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms: 

  • Chronic knee pain (including knee pain when walking, knee pain at night and knee pain when cycling);
  • Knee stiffness;
  • Knee swelling;
  • A clicking or grinding sensation in your knee; 
  • Joint locking, and
  • Difficult straightening your knee fully.

There are many reasons why you might experience knee pain, including arthritis, bursitis, or trauma injuries such as a torn meniscus. Knee arthroscopy for a torn meniscus (which occurs when you forcefully twist or rotate your knee) is an effective treatment option that reduces pain and improves mobility. 

You might have knee cartilage pain caused by a damaged cartilage.

The benefits of knee arthroscopy

There are many benefits of this procedure.

One of the main benefits of an arthroscopy is that it helps diagnose several conditions that cause knee pain, helping you to establish the cause of your pain and find the right treatment for you.

Another benefit is the speed of recovery. As your knee is not fully opened during the procedure, it is much quicker and easier to get back on your feet following an arthroscopy. There will also be less scarring, as the incision is so small.

As it helps diagnose knee conditions and determine appropriate treatment options, arthroscopy ultimately leads to reduced knee pain and improved mobility.

Your Consultant might recommend arthroscopic knee surgery if you suffer from ongoing, chronic knee pain.

During the procedure

A small incision will be made to allow your Consultant to insert a tiny camera, called an arthroscope, into your knee. Your Consultant will then be able to see inside your knee, which is helpful in diagnosing or treating several knee problems.

A knee arthroscopy can be performed with various types of anaesthetics, but it is usually a general anaesthetic. A Consultant Anaesthetist will recommend which type of anaesthetic is most suitable for you.

During the keyhole surgery, one or more incisions will be made into your knee and saline will be pumped into your knee to expand it and increase visibility. Your Consultant will then insert the arthroscope through one of the incisions and investigate your knee to diagnose the cause of your knee pain. It is often possible to trim or repair torn cartilage (known as arthroscopy cartilage repair) without the need to make a larger incision.

After the procedure

After the procedure is finished, your Consultant will remove the arthroscope, drain the saline from the joint and close the incisions (leaving stitches).

How long does knee arthroscopy take?

An arthroscopy typically takes half an hour to 45 minutes. As it isn’t too invasive, you can usually go home on the same day.

The knee arthroscopy recovery timeline varies depending on multiple factors, such as your physical health and the reason you have had the procedure in the first place.

However, most people make a good recovery and can return to normal activities in a few weeks.

How long does pain last after surgery?

Pain after surgery is also common, especially in the area where you have had incisions. This can be alleviated with traditional painkillers. 

At first, you might find that walking is uncomfortable and you need to use a walking aid. It is also likely that your knee will be swollen, so an icepack should be applied to help reduce swelling after knee arthroscopy.

It’s important to keep your leg elevated. You’ll also need to keep your knee and dressing clean and dry and change it regularly. Your Consultant will talk you through this process.

Following surgery, your physiotherapist will show you specific exercises to help with your recovery. These exercises will help to strengthen your knee, improve your mobility and get you back to daily life as quickly as possible.

How soon can you drive after knee arthroscopy?

You should refrain from driving for at least one week after knee arthroscopy.

Knee arthroscopy recovery time

This varies, but most people make a good recovery and can return to normal daily activities in a few weeks.

Not everyone who suffers from knee pain will need an arthroscopy. Your Consultant may be able to diagnose your problem through a physical examination or by using an MRI scan.

Physiotherapy may be suggested as an alternative to surgery, as it can help ease knee pain and strengthen muscle weakness. Medication to help ease joint pain can also be discussed with your Consultant.

Orthotic devices may also be recommended to help with knee alignment and provide pain relief. Lastly, if you are overweight, you may find that losing weight can significantly reduce pain and increase mobility.

Ultimately, you and your Consultant will discuss whether you need a knee arthroscopy.

Any surgical intervention has potential risks. However, this is rare and any possible complications will be discussed prior to your surgery.

Risks of arthroscopic treatment for your knee can include:

Specific complications of a knee arthroscopy include:

  • Developing a lump under the wound;
  • Infection in the knee joint, and
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the knee (complex regional pain syndrome).

It is important to remember that complications from knee surgery are rare and the benefits usually outweigh the risk.

However, your Consultant Surgeon will discuss the potential risks of arthroscopic treatment with you.

Please be aware that the following prices are a guide price. The final knee arthroscopy cost will be confirmed in writing following your consultation and any necessary diagnostic tests.

Knee surgery via arthroscopy

Patient pathway Initial consultation Diagnostic Investigations Main treatment Post discharge care Total
Hospital fees N/A Included £4,106 Included £4,106
Consultants fees £200 N/A Included Included £200
Total £4,306

Knee surgery via arthroscopy (bilateral)

Please be aware that the following prices are a guide price. The final knee arthroscopy cost will be confirmed in writing following your consultation and any necessary diagnostic tests.

Patient pathway Initial consultation Diagnostic Investigations Main treatment Post discharge care Total
Hospital fees N/A Included £5,985 Included £5,985
Consultants fees £200 N/A Included Included £200
Total £6,185

Specialists offering Knee arthroscopy (keyhole surgery)

Mr Robert Duthie

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MBChB, FRCS (Tr & Orth)

BMI Albyn Hospital

View profile Book online

Mr Ravi Pandit

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MS(Orth), FRCS(Eng), FRCS(Orth)

BMI Bishops Wood Hospital

View profile Book online

Mr Syed Awais Bokhari

Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon

BSc, MBBS, MRCS (England), FRCS (Trauma & Orthopaedics)

BMI The Beardwood Hospital

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Mr Aslam Chougle

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MBBS, MS(Orthopaedics), FRCS(Trauma & Orth), FRCS(Glasgow)

BMI The Highfield Hospital

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Mr Vel Sakthivel

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MBBS, FRCSEd, FRCS (Tr & Ortho), DIP

BMI The Lincoln Hospital

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