Knee Arthroscopy ("Key-hole Surgery")

A knee arthroscopy is an operation normally carried out under general anaesthetic. Small incisions are made in the knee to allow a telescope to be gently inserted to the knee to allow an assessment to be made.

The surgeon has the opportunity to assess a number of areas within the knee such as: the articular cartilage; the meniscal cartilages ("footballer's" or "sportsman's" cartilages); the cruciate ligaments, the knee cap (or patella); and the inner lining of the knee (synovium).

Small tools can be used within the knee to carry out a number of treatments.

The images below are of healthy meniscal cartilages being gently assessed for damage.

Knee Surgery       Knee Surgery      


Knee Surgery

The picture shows a healthy-looking cartilage as the knee-cap (patella) rests on the cartilage below (trochlea of the femur):




Knee Surgery

A damaged anterior cruciate ligament being probed.





Knee SurgeryAn anterior cruciate ligament that has stretched so much that it is no longer functional.





Procedures That Can Be Carried Out By Knee Arthroscopy
The following are some of the procedures that can be carried out during a "routine" arthroscopy:- 

  • Probes are used to gently assess the knee injury or areas of wear.
  • Trimming tools and motorised shavers can be used to trim damaged tissue.
  • Burrs can smooth of areas of excess "wear and tear" bone formation (osteophytes).
  • Bipolar radiofrequency ablation tools can be used to smooth off areas of irregular, damaged cartilage.
  • Arthroscopy itself with a washout of the joint can improve pain symptoms by removing the inflammatory debris from within the knee.
  • Biopsies can be taken to allow diagnosis of problems like infection and chronic tissue inflammation
  • Tears of the meniscal cartilages can be trimmed or occasionally repaired

Knee SurgeryA tear of the meniscal cartilage.





Knee SurgeryThe cartilage being trimmed with a small cutter within the knee.





After the Operation

The small incisions will have been closed with stitches or adhesive dressings. It is important not to get the wounds wet for 3 days as a minimum.

Driving needs to be avoided for 2 weeks and all sports for 3 weeks as a minimum.

The return to normal activity varies from person to person and depends what procedure has been carried out within the knee. The surgeon will advise you what is right for you following your surgery.


Knee arthroscopy is a comparatively low-risk procedure. However, occasionally complications of any surgery do occur. The recognised complications of arthroscopy of the knee include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Bleeding
  • Infection (either as a superficial infection of the portal sites or a deeper infection of the knee joint)
  • Deep venous thrombosis
  • Recurrence of symptoms
  • Reduced sensation over the front of the knee



For a link to a peer reviewed article published by Mr Arbuthnot and team on carrying out knee arthroscopy in the arthritic knee please click here