Your knees play a critical role in your ability to carry out overlooked movements such as standing, sitting, walking, and jumping. These large joints connect bones in your upper and lower legs, balance your body’s weight, and enable you to maintain posture.
The knees are complex structures made up of muscles and connecting and protective tissues like cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. The continual motion and twisting of the knees make them more vulnerable to injuries and illness.
Such conditions can be treated or eased with arthroscopic treatment.
Arthroscopic Treatment Overview
Arthroscopic knee treatment enables orthopedic surgeons to ease knee pain by repairing or replacing damaged tissues.
What Kinds of Knee Injuries Does Arthroscopic Surgery Treat?
This minimally invasive form of knee surgery treats or alleviates many knee injuries and issues, including:
Menisci are large formations of a hard protective covering of tissue called cartilage. They safeguard the knee joint, shinbone (tibia), and thighbone (femur). Menisci prevent these bones from intersecting when the knee is in motion, enabling them to maintain balance.
Acute contact injuries or chronic overuse can eventually lead to tears in the meniscus. Occasionally, such damage can progress to a stage where tissues must be fixed or removed and replaced.
Arthroscopy is often used to repair torn cartilage. The procedure may also be undertaken to perform a meniscectomy, which is the total removal of damaged menisci, or insert new grafted tissues from your body or a donor source like a cadaver.
An ACL tear is a common knee injury that arthroscopy is used to fix. The ACL is an abbreviation for the anterior cruciate ligament, an essential connecting tissue within the knee. The ACL is often sprained or completely torn due to forceful contact during sports like football.
Mild to moderate tears can often be repaired with arthroscopic intervention.
Synovial Tissue Repair or Removal
Synovial tissue is a thin protective covering surrounding the knee joint that frequently releases a nourishing liquid known as synovial fluid to keep the joint lubricated.
Overuse of or acute injury to the joint leads to inflammation, which may damage the covering. If a wound is severe enough, it may need arthroscopic repair or replacement.
Articular Cartilage Removal or Reconstruction
Articular cartilage shields bones at the point where they connect with joints to enable those features to move freely and efficiently.
Age, injury, and illness can weaken or damage these structures and interfere with a bone’s ability to move correctly. Arthroscopy is performed to repair damaged tissue or insert newly grafted material.
The Removal of Fragmented Bone
The removal of fragmented bone is necessary as synovial cartilage grows irregularly. As this situation progresses, the abnormal growth develops into markings known as nodules. In medical terms, the problem is labeled synovial chondromatosis. The nodules break free and circulate within the knee joint. Arthroscopy enables orthopedic surgeons to remove the nodules and reshape the affected tissues.
Infections either beginning in the knee or spreading to the knee joint from another part of the body can be cleared using arthroscopy. Surgeons can also remove diseased tissues.
Signs That You May Need Knee Arthroscopy Treatment
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may benefit from arthroscopy:
- Knee pain.
- Discomfort that worsens when you stand, walk, or carry out other movements.
- Pain that does not improve after typical home care treatments.
- Grinding or popping sounds in your knee when you stand or exercise.
- Knee stiffness.
- Knee feels warm to the touch.
More severe injuries may cause weakness, instability, or the inability to walk or bend the knee.
Knee Arthroscopy Preparation
You will be asked to avoid eating or drinking 12 to 24 hours before your procedure. The doctors will urge you to disclose all the over-the-counter and prescription medications you take, as certain drugs increase the risk of complications like bleeding. Sometimes, you may be required to refrain from certain medications as long as one week before your procedure.
Often, the procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and does not need a hospital stay.
Before surgeons begin the operation, you will be given anesthesia to ensure you do not feel any pain. Anesthesia takes three forms:
- Local Anesthesia: Anesthetic drugs are injected into your knee.
- Regional Anesthesia: Numbing substances placed into your spine or leg.
- General Anesthesia: Drugs administered intravenously, allowing you to stay asleep during the procedure.
Once the anesthetic takes effect, your surgeon makes several tiny incisions in the wounded knee. They then insert fluid into the joint. This action expands your knee, making examination and operation more manageable.
Surgeons perform the procedure using an arthroscope. This small, camera-equipped device produces images of the knee’s inner workings transmitted to a computer monitor for the surgical team to view. Once the problematic area or issue is identified, surgeons use small tools to make precise corrections.
After the procedure, your surgical team will drain the fluid and carefully stitch the incision sites.
Complications are rare when performed by an experienced orthopedic surgeon in a state-of-the-art facility. Like any other surgical procedure, arthroscopy carries risks such as bleeding, infection, chronic post-operative pain, knee stiffness, or injury to neighboring structures. Note that these occurrences are highly uncommon.
Immediately following the procedure, you will be asked to apply ice to the healing knee to ease pain and reduce swelling. Elevating your leg above your heart is said to increase blood flow and lessen recovery time. You will also need to cleanse the wound and replace protective bandages. You will be given thorough instructions about the proper techniques.
You will likely undergo physical therapy to help your knee regain strength and range of motion.
Most knee arthroscopy recipients will make a full recovery. Patients heal at their own rate, so offering specific time frames for recovery is difficult.
Preventing Knee Injuries
Though knee arthroscopy is usually safe and effective, you should still take precautions to avoid knee injuries that may cause you to need it.
Injuries from critical incidents such as accidents, falls, or direct blows usually cannot be avoided. You may reduce your chances of experiencing a significant knee injury through efforts like:
- Maintaining A Healthy Weight – Excess pounds place added pressure on the knees. Being overweight or obese is unusually hard on your knees as the structures must balance the body and maintain posture.
- Stretching Before Physical Activity – Many knee injuries can be avoided simply by stretching and loosening the muscles before participating in sports or manual labor.
- Exercising – The physical structures of the body must receive adequate exercise. Such activity provides strength and increases their resistance to injury.
- Avoiding Overexertion – Avoid abruptly increasing your workout’s level of intensity. Changes to your fitness routine should be undertaken gradually to give your body time to adjust.
- Consuming A Healthy Diet – You are encouraged to eat foods rich in nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grain products. Such items not only increase your strength and energy levels but also decreases the presence of injury-causing inflammation.
- Wearing Appropriate Footwear – You should always wear well-fitting shoes. Poor traction places great stress on the knees and increases the risk of acute incidents like falls.
- Resting And Seeking Help When the Need Arises – If you feel any pain or discomfort, please stop and rest. Should the pain linger, or other symptoms occur, call us. They can identify and fix any existing problems in their earliest possible stage.
If you have sustained any knee injury or are experiencing the symptoms of one, please contact Dr. Peter Howard. He is a renowned orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist who has diagnosed and treated many knee injuries and performed countless arthroscopic procedures. Dr. Howard can offer a thorough examination, identify existing problems, and determine if you are a good candidate for knee arthroscopy.