Arthroscopic surgery is one of our most common operations. It’s a type of keyhole surgery, as you probably know, performed through two very small incisions. This tiny surgical footprint reduces disruption to the tissues in your knee. Less disruption – and less time in the operating theatre – usually equates to reduced pain after the op, faster healing time and a speedier return to normal activities.
Most arthroscopies are done as day cases under a general anaesthetic (though we occasionally use a spinal anaesthetic instead), and they’re used for a whole range of different knee problems. These include:
- Ligament repairs and reconstruction
- Meniscus repairs
- Removal of loose bodies (tiny fragments of cartilage or bone in the joint)
- Cartilage surgery
So if you’re booked in to have an arthroscopy here at Chris Bailey Orthopaedics, what will your treatment journey look like? Here’s a quick timeline to help you prepare.
Preparing for your surgery
Before your arthroscopy, you’ll receive a pre-surgery document with some important information about the operation. This will include things like when you can eat and drink, and whether you’ll need to temporarily stop taking any medication beforehand. If you’ve ever suffered from deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), we’ll want to know about that too; you may be given blood thinning medication if you’re at higher risk of DVT. On the day of surgery, you should look to wear loose-fitting clothes, such as shorts and a t-shirt.
Coming into hospital
Most arthroscopies take place in the early morning or early afternoon so you can go home later that day. If you have an early slot, you’ll usually need to arrive around 7.30am. On arrival, we’ll take you through to the ward and introduce you to the nursing team. While you make yourself comfortable, we’ll discuss the procedure again and ask you to read and sign a consent form. You will meet the anaesthetist who will explain how the anaesthesia process works. Finally, we’ll mark up the knee that’s being operated on so you’re all ready to go through for surgery.
Going into theatre
Once in theatre, the anaesthetist will put a drip in your arm and will give you medication to send you to sleep. You’ll usually be asleep for about 30-45 minutes in total. We then apply a tourniquet to your knee, “paint” the area with an antibacterial fluid and make two small cuts either side of the kneecap. A tiny camera probe goes into one incision (usually the outer one), which sends images to a TV monitor. The operating device we’re using – a shaving instrument, for example, or a resector for removing damaged tissue – is inserted into the other. Once the procedure is complete, we dress and bandage your knee (sutures aren’t usually necessary). Most arthroscopies are normally completed within half an hour.
When the operation is over, the team will take you to the recovery room for about 20-30 minutes. Once you’re awake, they’ll take you on to the ward where we can monitor you, do some observations and make sure you’re feeling OK. You’ll be given some food and drink, if you feel ready for it, and the nurses will help you to get up to use the toilet. When we’re happy everything is going well, we’ll help you to mobilise yourself – with crutches, if you need them – and get you signed off so you can return home.
Most people are able to head home about three hours after their operation. You won’t be allowed to drive home, so you’ll need to arrange transport for the journey. Since the anaesthetic effects can last for a little while, it’s also a good idea to have someone stay with you for 24 hours after your operation. We’ll give you pain relief medication to use for up to two weeks after the op; this is usually co-codamol (a mixture of paracetamol and codeine), though some patients find paracetamol alone is sufficient. Depending on your procedure, you may have some joint exercises to work on as you recover.
A helpful NHS guide to recovering after an arthroscopy operation
An ask-the-anaesthetist interview with one of our colleagues, Stuart
8 tips to help you sleep in the early stages of recovery
Having a bigger operation? 11 tips for how to prepare for your procedure
Do you have any burning questions about an upcoming arthroscopy? Please drop us a line and we’ll be glad to help. You can call the team direct on 01962 826107 – or book an appointment with Mr Bailey through the website.