What is Keyhole Knee Surgery?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2019
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Keyhole knee surgery is another name for knee arthroscopy. It is a surgical procedure in which two or three small incisions are made around the knee area in order to view and repair a variety of knee problems. Viewing and repairing is achieved through the use of a small video camera and various medical instruments.

The procedure is just one of several options in repairing knee problems. It can be used for such problems as damaged tissue or cartilage as well as a torn or damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). In addition, the surgery also can be used to extract tissue samples during a biopsy.

Before undergoing keyhole knee surgery, a patient might need to follow specific instructions in preparation for a successful procedure. For example, general anesthesia might require the patient to forgo food and drink intake for hours preceding the surgery. Also, those who smoke may be asked to stop because smoking can slow down the recovery process.

During surgery, anesthesia is used to numb the pain. The video camera is inserted into the knee through one of the incisions. It is connected to a monitor in the operating room. In some instances, and if the patient has been given anesthesia that will allow him or her to stay awake during the procedure, he or she might be allowed to view the surgery as it happens.


Saline is pumped into the knee to expand the space and give the surgeon a better view. If repair is necessary, the surgeon might insert various medical instruments in the other incisions to complete the surgical procedure. The saline is drained, and then the incisions are stitched closed and bandaged.

The length of time that the surgery takes varies with the type of operation being performed. Generally though, keyhole knee surgery takes less than a day and lasts from about 30 minutes to more than an hour. The use of anesthesia requires the patient to wait to go home, but in most cases, he or she is allowed to leave the same day.

Depending on the severity of the surgery, recovery time can range from fairly quick to an extended period of time. Full recovery also depends on the type of problem that the procedure was used to correct. Crutches or a knee brace might be needed for a while so that weight is kept of the knee. In addition, pain can be controlled this way. Painkillers might be prescribed or can be purchased over the counter to alleviate pain as well.

As with any surgical procedure, side effects and complications can arise from keyhole knee surgery. They include scars, infection and joint damage or bleeding. An unsuccessful operation might lead to further surgical procedures.


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