An arthroscopy might be recommended if you suffer from joint pain, stiffness, swelling, sometimes for diagnostic purposes, but also to carry out any treatment. Arthroscopy can be used to remove pieces of loose cartilage or bone, to repair damaged cartilage, or to drain excess fluid from a joint.
An arthroscopy is performed under a general anaesthetic, so you will be asleep for the procedure. Small, minor cuts are made in the area to allow your surgeon to insert an instrument called an arthroscope, which is a thin tube which has a light and a camera on the end of it. The images are sent from the arthroscope onto a screen which allows your surgeon to be able to see into the joint.
Your surgeon is also able to perform treatment if necessary, such as removing affected tissue or cartilage within the joint. The procedure usually lasts between 30-45 minutes.
An arthroscopy is usually performed as a day case procedure, which means there is no need for an overnight stay in hospital, and you will be allowed to rest and recover at home.
As you will be asleep under general anaesthetic for the procedure, you will have a pre-assessment with a doctor or nurse to discuss the surgery in more detail. Your doctor will tell you whether you need to stop taking any medications beforehand such as warfarin or ibuprofen as they may cause complications during the procedure.
You will typically not be able to eat or drink for four to six hours before your surgery. You must follow the instructions given to you in regards to fasting before your surgery.
Immediately after surgery we’ll help you manage any pain or discomfort with painkillers. We’ll discuss your aftercare and arrange any follow-up appointments with you before you leave hospital. A physiotherapist will discuss your rehabilitation and give you a programme of exercise to follow.
Depending which joint has been operated on, in the first few days following your surgery you may need help to get around and you may need to put an ice pack on the affected area to reduce swelling and minimise discomfort.
The time needed before you return to work, driving and more vigorous activities will depend on exactly what surgery you’ve had, and the progress of your recovery.
Arthroscopic surgery is a common procedure which is generally very well tolerated by patients. As with any surgical procedure there can be some risks, including:
- blood clots (including deep vein thrombosis (DVT))
- damage to nerves