How Successful is Arthroscopic Knee Surgery?

Knee arthroscopy refers to a minimal access type of surgery which can be used to diagnose and treat issues within the knee joint. The procedure includes making a small incision into the knee to insert a tiny camera known as an arthroscope to view the insides of the joint. The arthroscope sends back HD images on to a screen where the surgeon can see the insides and make a diagnosis, and if needed, correct the issue at hand using instruments that go along with the arthroscope.

Knee arthroscopy can be used to fix problems like torn meniscus, misaligned patella or damaged ligaments. The surgery comes with minimal risks, good outlook along with a good prognosis for the patient. The recovery time however depends on the complexity of the procedure as well as the rest and rehabilitation regime followed.

Arthroscopic knee surgery is usually recommended when there is a persistent knee pain which could be due to a host of reasons. Some of these include fractures in the knee bone, removal of Baker’s cyst, torn cruciate ligaments, a torn meniscus (the shock absorbing cartilage between the bones in the knee joint) or an out-of-place patella; other reasons could be for treatment of an inflamed or swollen synovium (lining of the knee joint) or for removing floating bones from the joint or repairing torn pieces of cartilage that are loose.

Whatever the case, arthroscopic procedures are useful in diagnosing as well as treating the source of the knee pain. As with all surgical procedures, there are a few risks associated with arthroscopy too; these could include formation of blood clots in the legs or lungs, infection within the knee joints, bleeding inside the knee joints or stiffness in the knees post-surgery. The procedure may also run the risk of damaging the cartilages, ligaments or meniscus, or to the blood vessels or nerves in the knee. However, these risks are similar to other surgical procedures and do occur accidentally in a very minimal percentage of patients.

However, there is a school of thought going around which suggests that arthroscopic surgery for relieving chronic knee pain in middle-aged or elderly people has only short-term benefits and may even prove to be harmful in the long run. According to these eminent and learned people, the patients recover with time, whether they are given surgical or non-surgical treatments, so why put them at the risk of facing post-surgical trauma. Their study included reviews of procedures in older adult patients with osteoarthritic pains or torn meniscus. Their findings showed that relief from pain post-surgery was short-lived and only lasted for an average of six months, with no significant improvement in physical function.

They recommend that instead of arthroscopic surgery, exercise under the guidance of a physiotherapist is a more effective option to help knee pain subside.

However, these opinions are limited to older patients with osteoarthritis; hence they should be taken in the right spirit. Arthroscopic knee surgery is still a valid procedure today for lakhs of patients in the country with a multitude of knee pain issues.

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