What Happens During Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

Your knee gets hit from the side as you're playing soccer and you go down quickly. Your knee collapses underneath you and now it's swollen and painful. The swelling is the natural response of your body to such an injury and so is the pain. Your doctor determines that you have a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and recommends arthroscopic surgery to do the repair. Here is what you can expect from this surgery and the recovery afterward.

It Starts With Waiting

The orthopedic surgeon will wait several days before doing your surgery to allow the swelling to go down in your knee. This makes it easier to access the ligament that needs to be repaired. The swelling is due to the strained muscles from the collapse of your knee and it keeps your knee from moving and causing more damage.

The arthroscopic surgery will be done in the surgeon's office. You'll rest on a special table that gives the surgeon better access to your knee. The anesthesiologist will give you a choice of anesthesia:

  • Local: This is an injection in the knee which deadens the area so you feel no pain.
  • Regional: This is an injection in your lower back that deadens you from the waste down.
  • Sedation: In both of the above cases, you'll still be awake during the procedure. You can choose sedation, which will make you sleepy, but you'll still be conscious during the procedure.

Accessing the Knee

Once the anesthetic has taken effect, the surgeon will make two small incisions over your knee. Into the first incision, they will insert the arthroscope. This is a thin tube to which is attached camera to guide the surgeon to the inured area. Into the other incision, they will insert another tube through which special instruments for doing micro-surgery are guided to repair your knee.

The doctor will see inside of your knee on a monitor and through a microscope. If you are awake during the procedure, you can watch the monitor, too. The doctor will guide the camera and surgical tools into the knee joint and look for the torn ligament. They will remove any damaged tissue that will not heal and sew the torn ligament back together. If the ligament pulled away from the bone, special sutures are used to reattach the ligament.

Once the repairs are complete, the arthroscope and instruments are removed and the incisions are sutured or stapled closed. A small bandage is placed over the incisions and you'll be taken to a room to rest for a short while. The doctor will check on you and the incisions and, once satisfied there are no immediate complications, you'll get to go home.

Recovering from Knee Surgery

After a few days, your doctor will have you start physical therapy. Initially, the therapist will work with your knee to loosen up the muscles and restore the knee's normal range of motion. Once the knee moves freely, you'll start strengthening the muscles in your knee. Strong muscles are necessary to walk, but they also support your knee and protect it from further injury.

Total recovery to be able to do regular daily activities can take weeks. If you'll be going back to playing sports, your doctor will have you continue physical therapy for several more weeks to build up the strength in your knee to withstand the stresses on the playing field. For more information, talk to a professional like Surgery Center of Kenai.