knee surgeries

The most common knee surgeries involve arthroscopy — a surgical technique used to repair many different types of knee problems — or knee replacement.

Arthroscopic surgery

Arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery used to diagnose and treat a wide range of knee problems. A keyhole surgery is one in which long, thin instruments are inserted into the patient’s body through small incisions.

For arthroscopic knee surgery, the surgeon inserts a probe with a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the knee joint. The scope displays pictures on a video monitor to help guide the surgeon’s work. Surgical instruments are inserted into the joint through a second incision.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons describes the following as the most common arthroscopic procedures for the knee:

  • Removal or repair of a torn meniscus — a type of cartilage in your knee that cushions and stabilizes the joint
  • Reconstruction of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is a ligament that helps stabilize the knee joint
  • Removal of inflamed synovial (connective) tissue
  • Trimming of damaged articular cartilage
  • Removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage
  • Treatment of patella (kneecap) problems
  • Treatment of knee sepsis (infection)

Knee replacement

In a knee replacement operation, the surgeon removes damaged parts of the knee joint and replaces them with new parts made of materials such as metal, ceramic or plastic. Contrary to the name of the procedure, the surgeon does not replace the entire knee joint.

After knee replacement surgery, you may have some temporary pain in the new joint. Nonetheless, physical therapy can often begin the day after surgery. Physical activity after surgery is considered a key to success. That makes postoperative pain relief particularly important, so you can be active and participate effectively in physical therapy.

Knee replacements can be expected to last at least 15 years; some last 20 years or longer. Because knee replacements do not last forever, age is a factor in deciding between surgery and other pain management alternatives.