The knee is the largest joint in the body and consists of the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap) and tibia (shin bone). The surface of each bone is covered in cartilage, a smooth and slippery material that helps bones glide and move without pain. In addition, the knee is unique in that it has two pieces of ring-shaped cartilage that act as “shock absorbers” for the knee during activities, called the lateral and medial meniscus. These menisci (plural of meniscus) are tough but rubbery and protect the knee from injury, but can also become injured themselves as a result of wear and tear or athletic injuries. There are also four primary ligaments that stabilize the knee: anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). These ligaments are frequently injured during activities, with the ACL being most common.
Knee arthroscopy can be utilized to treat a number of conditions of the knee. This includes injuries to the meniscus, ligaments, bones, and cartilage. Some of the most common injuries that require knee arthroscopy are a meniscus tear, ACL rupture, cartilage injury (osteochondral injury) or fracture. Sometimes a knee arthroscopy is used for making the diagnosis when a condition is suspected, but cannot be easily diagnosed with X-rays or other imaging.
Knee arthroscopy is a common surgical procedure that uses small cameras and tools to look inside the knee and treat a number of conditions. The insertion of the instruments do not damage the knee, and avoid the important structures described above. The procedure is performed by your orthopaedic surgeon and can vary in length. A diagnostic arthroscopy may only take 30 minutes, but if combined with other procedures (such as an ACL reconstruction), can take significantly more time. The small incisions will be closed and your knee will be wrapped with a bandage.
Your physician may recommend a specific rehabilitation protocol to enhance your recovery to activities. The type of rehabilitation will depend on the surgery that was performed and should be discussed with your surgeon or physical therapist. This might include restrictions on motion and weight bearing precautions. Therapy will consist of exercises for improving strength, maintaining motion, and re-training your muscles and balance. Exercises should be performed in a supervised setting, as well as at home on your own time. Your commitment to rehabilitation is key to a successful outcome.
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