scope of knee

What is a Scope of the Knee?

In all likelihood, you have heard of people going for a scope of the stomach, whereby patients need to “swallow a scope” (a thin, flexible camera) so that their doctors can see what is going on internally. With this image in mind, it may be hard to imagine what a scope of the knee is and how it takes place. It is not uncommon for patients to have many questions about this procedure! To help address these, in this article, we take a closer look at knee scoping; what is it, its purpose, what it entails, what it treats, recovery after a knee scope, and a few other frequently asked questions.


Understanding Knee Arthroscopy

A scope of the knee’s correct medical term is knee arthroscopy. The word arthroscopy is composed of two Greek words, ‘arthro’ – joint and ‘skopein’ – to look in. Essentially, arthroscopy means to “look in the joint”.

To go into a bit more detail, arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) is a minimally invasive medical procedure used to diagnose and treat joint injuries and conditions. In the instance of knee arthroscopy, a surgeon would insert a tiny camera (arthroscope) into the affected knee joint through a very small incision. The scope consists of a flexible fibre optic tube with a little camera that transmits images to a monitor for surgeons to view. A second small incision allows for the insertion of small instruments that enables your orthopaedic surgeons to assess, diagnose and even treat any issues they may note with your joints right then and there. Arthroscopy is most frequently performed on knees, hips, shoulders, ankles, elbows and wrists. At Cape Hip and Knee, we specialise in knee and hip arthroscopy.


Did You Know? The first report of a diagnostic knee arthroscopy was in 1912 by the Danish surgeon Severin Nordentoft.1


When Would I Need a Knee Scope?

If you are experiencing knee pain and doctors are uncertain about what is causing the pain or need to confirm their diagnosis, they may recommend knee arthroscopy. It may also be required when degenerative conditions or injuries to the cartilage (meniscus tear) cause movement disorders, such as locked knee. In such an instance, the damaged tissue or loose cartilage needs to be removed. Minor chondral damage is also treatable with chondroplasty procedures. Some procedures that assist with diagnosing, such as a biopsy that looks for infection can help manage a painful knee replacement.

Other uses of knee arthroscopy include being able to:

  • Repair torn ligaments
  • Reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee
  • Repair or remove a torn meniscus of the knee (the cartilage between the bones in the knee)
  • Remove pieces of torn cartilage that are loose in the joint
  • Remove the inflamed/swollen synovium (the lining in the knee joint)
  • Address a patella (knee cap) that has moved out of position
  • Remove a Baker’s cyst
  • Diagnose fractures in the knee bones


Do I Need to Stay in the Hospital overnight for a Knee Scope?

Not all surgeries involve being put to sleep, overnight hospital stays, extreme pain and strong medication. Some are of short duration and can take place as outpatients or in a day hospital. Knee arthroscopy is one such surgery. While still considered major surgery, a knee scope is generally over in about an hour, and should you choose, it is even possible you could be awake for the whole thing! It all depends on the type of anaesthetic the doctor gives you before your surgery; this could be local where they only numb your knee, regional where they only numb you from the waist down, or general anaesthetic where you are completely put to sleep. But you needn’t worry about the unknown. Your orthopaedic surgeons will walk with you each step of the way, advise you on how to best prepare for your knee surgery, explain what it entails, help you make any big decisions, answer your questions and support you on your pathway to surgery.


Did you know? Your knee joint is not only one of the most complex joints, it is also the largest!


What Can I Expect After Arthroscopic Knee Surgery?

During the surgery you will not feel anything at all but afterwards you will feel a little numb, after which you may experience mild pain and some swelling. Pain medication prescribed by your orthopaedic surgeon, along with ice on your knee and elevation, will assist in reducing any pain and swelling. The incisions will have been closed with sutures or Steri-strips and a bandage put over that. It is important to keep your bandage dry and clean while you heal. Don’t forget to pay close attention to your medical team as they explain how to care for your wound, exercise and stretch, and how to look after yourself before your discharge. If you are uncertain of retaining any information, request that a family member or friend be available to hear the directions given and help you remember.


How Long Will Recovery After a Knee Scope Take?

Recovery after arthroscopic knee surgery depends on the individual, how healthy you are and your type of injury. Even though a scope is not very invasive, you will need to give it a few days for the incisions to heal, and it may take a few weeks before the joint is fully healed. Most patients experience the most significant difference and see the benefit of the surgery between four to six weeks after surgery.


Will you need crutches after an arthroscopy?

The quick answer is, it depends on you. Each patient is different; you may find it helpful depending on your pain levels and stability after the surgery. Those who do need crutches typically stop using them one to three days after surgery.


How soon can you drive after arthroscopic knee surgery?

At least one week is recommended to heal, but once again, this depends on the patient. If you are pain-free, strong enough to press the brake for an emergency stop, and not on any heavy painkillers, you should be fine to drive. However, we do recommend you discuss this with your medical team.


Recommended read: You may also find the following articles helpful >> What is the difference between Arthroplasty and Arthroscopy? and How Do I Know if I Need Knee Surgery?


Book a consult with us to discuss your injury and take the next step on your road to recovery.



1 Arthroscopic surgery: a historical perspective.[Orthop Nurs. 2008]

What is a Scope of the Knee?