What is knee arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy, also referred to as keyhole surgery, allows your surgeon to see inside your knee using a camera. The camera (called an arthroscope) is inserted through small cuts in the skin. Your surgeon consultant can use the arthroscopy to help him or her diagnose what is causing your knee pain, discomfort or restricted movement.

A knee arthroscopy can be used to diagnose problems such as:

  • A torn cartilage
  • Ligament damage
  • Arthritis

What’s the benefit of a knee arthroscopy?

The main benefit of a knee arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) is to confirm exactly what the problem is and in many cases to treat the problem at the same time. You may be suffering from pain or discomfort due to an injury or an inflamation and a knee arthroscopy should very quickly be able to tell you consultant surgeon what the issue is.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Not everyone that suffers from knee pain or discomfort may need to have a knee arthroscopy. Your consultant may be able to diagnose problems using a physical examination or they may decide that the problem inside the knee can be diagnosed using a magnetic scan (MRI scan). Your consultant may decide that after either a physical examination or MRI scan physiotherpay may be the best course of action for you. Ultimately you and your consultant will discuss whether you need a knee arthroscopy to treat the problem.

What will happen during my knee arthroscopy consultation?

During your consultation with your consultant surgeon, you will be able to have all of your questions about the knee arthroscopy procedure answered. Your surgeon consultant will also talk you through exactly what to expect from the arthroscopy, including before, during and after the procedure.

What does the knee arthroscopy involve?

A variety of anaesthetic techniques are possible. The knee arthroscopy operation usually takes between half an hour and three-quarters of an hour.

Your surgeon will examine the inside of your knee. They will wash out any loose material caused by wear of the joint surfaces. It is usually possible for your surgeon to trim or repair a torn cartilage without needing to make a larger cut. (see fig.1)

What complications can happen?

  1. General complications of any operationPain Bleeding Infection in the surgical wound Unsightly scarring Blood clots Difficulty passing urine
  2. Specific complications of this operationDeveloping a lump under the wound Infection in the knee joint Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the knee (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome)

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

It is common for the knee to be a little swollen for a few weeks following keyhole surgery. Walking can be uncomfortable. Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a good recovery and can return to normal activities. However, further cartilage tears occasionally happen following a knee arthroscopy.


An arthroscopy allows your surgeon to diagnose and treat some common problems affecting the knee, without the need for a large cut in the skin. This may reduce the amount of pain you feel and speed up your recovery after surgery.