The menisci are two semi-circular pieces of shock absorbing cartilage within the knee joint. They are often injured with increasing age and following sporting activities. Torn sections can be trimmed or repaired, although repair is more commonly done in young adults and children.

Arthroscopy, also known as keyhole surgery, uses a pencil-sized camera, small incisions and specialised instruments to perform the procedure.

The operation

  1. This is usually done under a general anaesthetic
  2. This operation takes approximately 30 – 45mins.
  3. Two or three small incisions are made at the front of your knee for the camera (arthroscope) and other instruments to perform the procedure
  4. Sterile water (saline) is passed through the knee to make visualisation of the knee structures easier. This fluid is drained at the end of the procedure
  5. Local anaesthetic and painkillers are injected into the knee to minimise discomfort after surgery
  6. Stitches are used to close the wounds and a tight bandage is applied.

After the operation

  • Pain relief – good pain relief is important and you will be given this during your procedure. Some people need more than others so please ask for help if you are in any discomfort following your procedure. You can expect some pain that may last up to a few weeks
  • Hospital stay – most patients usually leave the hospital on the same day
  • Physical activities – You will be advised on how much weight to put through your leg by your surgeon but usually full weight is permitted.
  • Showering and bathing – you need to keep your wound well covered using the waterproof dressing provided whilst showering. When bathing do not submerse wound in water as dressing are not designed to withstand this. This should be done for at least the first 10 days
  • Swelling and bruising – Ice: applied for 10-30 minutes at a time. Wrap ice in a plastic bag or towel to prevent ice-burn. Elevation: reduces swelling. Prop up leg using a pillow when sitting or lying in bed. Aim to keep above the level of the heart. Swelling and bruising may take up to 8 weeks to completely disappear.

Your surgeon and physiotherapist will discuss with you issues surrounding:

  • Returning to work
  • Using your knee following your operation
  • Driving
  • Anticipated length of rehabilitation

Possible complications

All surgery has associated risks. These risks are higher in some patients than others. Risks include:

  • Anaesthetic – your anaesthetist will discuss risks associated with the anaesthetic with you.
  • Infection – there is a small risk of wound infection following your operation that is minimised by giving you antibiotics if any repair is performed. If at any time you notice a fever or increased pain, swelling or redness around you wound, please contact us urgently.
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage – this can sometimes occur after surgery and if severe may require a return to theatre. Bleeding within the joint will result in swelling but should subside in 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Deep vein thrombosis – this is a blood clot in the leg. You may be given blood thinning medication and support stocking to help prevent this. If you notice a pain in your calf then please contact us urgently.
  • Pulmonary embolism – this is a blood clot in your lungs. You will be given blood thinning medication to help prevent this. If you notice a sharp pain in your chest or shortness of breath then please seek immediate medical attention.
  • Persistent pain – arthroscopic surgery is most beneficial where pain is mechanical in nature (i.e. intermittent, catching, locking or associated with giving way) and is not guaranteed to alleviate constant pain in the knee (please see video on meniscal tears)