Knee arthroscopy is a way for your surgeon to see into your knee. Years ago large incisions would have to be made to diagnose and treat problems of the knee. The arthroscope is a small instrument about the size of a pencil that has a light source attached to it and a camera at the end. The video taken from the camera is projected onto a screen allowing us to see nearly all corners of your knee.
Many conditions may be treated with the assistance of an arthroscope. Small incisions, called portals, about 1 cm in length are typically made on either side of the patella tendon. The arthroscope is inserted into one and instruments may be inserted through the other(s). An unstable tear of the meniscus may be trimmed back to a stable rim removing tissue using instruments called biters or shavers. In some situations we may perform a repair of the meniscus through the small portals and in other cases we may make accessory incisions to protect the nerves and blood vessels in the back of the knee. Unstable flaps of surface cartilage may be removed to prevent them from causing ongoing irritation. Floating pieces of cartilage called loose bodies may be retrieved to prevent swelling and mechanical symptoms such as locking or catching.
Knee arthroscopy is typically an outpatient procedure. This means that you can go home after the surgery. In some cases you will be allowed to walk without crutches and other times you may be asked to only put a little weight on your leg while using crutches. Sometimes a brace may be required for support. Typically the dressings are removed after a few days and you are allowed to shower. The recovery goals in the first few days after surgery is to diminish the swelling, work on regaining normal range of motion, and walking without a limp.
It seems that recovery should be fast because all you can see are small incisions on the outside. However, the healing process will take weeks or even months. Your physician and possibly a physical therapist should safely guide you through a return to activity program.