Knee Arthroscopy Gets Patients Back on Their Feet Fast, according to a study published in the January 2008 issue of Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery. The study is the first to quantify recovery times for patients having the minimally-invasive procedure.
Knee arthroscopy, one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures, uses a small camera to diagnose and treat abnormalities inside the knee joint. It has revolutionized orthopaedic surgery in many ways, including the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of musculoskeletal ailments.
The pencil-sized arthroscope is inserted into the knee joint through a small incision to give orthopaedic surgeons a clear view inside the knee. The camera is attached to a video monitor allowing the surgeon to thoroughly examine the interior of the knee and determine the source of the problem. During the procedure, the surgeon also can insert surgical instruments through other small incisions in the knee to remove or repair damaged tissues.
The study was conducted to test the hypothesis that a majority of patients return to unrestricted activity within four weeks after knee arthroscopy. The study found:
88 percent of patients described knee-related activity restriction before surgery;
82 percent of patients returned to walking and other light activity one week after surgery. This improved to 94 percent after two weeks and 100 percent after four weeks.
“This is good news for baby boomers and athletes alike,” said James Lubowitz, MD, the study’s lead author and director of the Taos Orthopaedic Institute in New Mexico. “For people where non-surgical treatments did not work for their knee damage, arthroscopy appears to yield promising results for people who want to get back on their feet shortly after surgery.”
Researchers had 72 knee-surgery patients – whose median age was 44 years of age – compete diaries before the surgery and at intervals up to 24 weeks after surgery.
While most arthroscopies are performed on patients between 20 and 60 years of age, people younger than 10 and older than 80 have benefited from the procedure. Typical candidates for the surgery are active people in their 30’s and 40’s who are starting to experience knee pain from decades of running, skiing, basketball and other sports. The knee pain usually includes:
giving way, and
general loss of confidence in knee function
When non-surgical treatments such as medications, knee supports and physical therapy provide no significant improvement, orthopaedic surgeons may suggest arthroscopy for certain conditions.
“Patients preparing for this procedure all want to know: ‘How soon after surgery can I return to activity?’” concluded Dr. Lubowitz. “This study provides the most definitive answer yet.”