What is knee arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is commonly used to diagnose and treat problems resulting in damage on the articular cartilage, ligaments, and other structures. This surgical procedure allows the surgeon to insert an arthroscope, a small camera, into your knee joint to guide miniature surgical instruments. Thus, only small incisions are required, resulting in less pain and joint stiffness, and shortens the recovery time for patients.

A skeletal image of a knee in red highlight

When is knee arthroscopy recommended?

Non-surgical treatments such as rest, physical therapy, medications, and injections are usually the first line of treatment for most hip conditions. However, your doctor might suggest hip arthroscopy if your condition does not respond to any of those treatments.


Knee arthroscopy can help to relieve pain arising from problems within the knee joint.


Common procedures in knee arthroscopy include:

  • Removing or repairing a torn meniscus
  • Trimming damaged articular cartilage or performing cartilage resurfacing procedures
  • Reconstructing a torn anterior or posterior cruciate ligament
  • Removing inflamed synovial tissue
  • Removing loose fragments of bone or cartilage
  • Treating kneecap problems
  • Treating knee infection



Surgical procedure



  • Your knee will be prepped by cleaning the skin on your knee, then covering it with surgical draping to only expose the incision site.
  • Your leg may be placed on a positioning device to stabilise the knee during the procedure.



  • Your orthopaedic surgeon will make small incisions, also known as portals, in your knee and fill the knee joint with a sterile solution to wash away the fluid within the inflamed knee. This allows your orthopaedic surgeon to see the structures in your knee clearly.
  • Your orthopaedic surgeon will then insert the arthroscope and use the image to guide the passage of surgical instruments.
  • Tiny instruments will be inserted through other small incisions for shaving, cutting, grasping, meniscal repair and graft passage during ligament reconstruction.
  • Special devices may be used to pass stitches and anchor stitches into the bone.
  • Once the procedure is complete, your orthopaedic surgeon will close each incision with a stitch or skin tape, before covering it with a soft bandage.

Knee Arthroscopy

Commonly Asked Questions

Planning for the Surgery

Your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend consulting your primary doctor or anaesthetist to assess your general health to identify any problems or health risks that may interfere with the surgery.

A knee arthroscopy can be performed as an outpatient treatment or require only an overnight hospital stay if you are generally healthy.

Consult your orthopaedic surgeon for specific instructions but you may have to stop taking traditional medicine, blood thinning medications and control your general medical conditions before the surgery.

Knee arthroscopy can be performed under regional anaesthesia (numbs you below the waist) or general anaesthesia (puts you to sleep) supplemented with nerve blocks or injections of local anaesthetic to reduce pain. Your orthopaedic surgeon and anaesthetist will discuss the best method with you.

A knee arthroscopy may take from less than an hour to about two hours depending on the complexity of the procedure.


The complication rate for knee arthroscopy is low and even if they occur, are usually minor and easily treatable. Possible complications include infection, blood clots in the veins, knee stiffness and accumulation of blood in the knee. For more complex procedures, there is a small risk of nerve or vessel injury, but these are rare.


Feeling some pain is part and parcel of the healing process after surgery. Rest assured that your doctor will prescribe medications for short-term pain relief.

Paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and opioids are common temporary pain relief medications that will be prescribed. Your doctor might also recommend aspirin or other blood thinning medication to reduce the risk of blood clots in the veins.

You will need crutches after knee arthroscopy and your orthopaedic surgeon will tell you when it is safe to put weight on your leg. Your orthopaedic surgeon may also advise wearing a brace to limit the range of knee motion to protect your repairs. Remember to keep your leg elevated as much as possible and apply a cooling bandage or ice as recommended to help with the swelling. Keep your dressing clean and dry too. Your doctor will also provide you with a rehabilitation plan which includes specific exercises to help you restore strength and mobility.