Duration of a knee arthroscopy


Nowadays, many surgical procedures are no longer performed openly but minimally invasively. One of the most common procedures is arthroscopy of the knee. It is used both diagnostically to visualise ligaments, cartilage and bones if injuries are suspected, and therapeutically to treat any damage. The duration of a knee arthroscopy primarily depends on the diagnosis made in advance and the extent of the injury. You can find more general information on this topic at: Arthroscopy of the Knee


An advantage of arthroscopy of the knee is the shorter duration and the associated lower risks during and after the operation. The duration of the operation and the subsequent phases is described in more detail below. The duration of the operation depends on several factors.

The diagnosis and the extent of the injury play the most important role for the duration of the arthroscopy. In addition, the expertise and experience of the surgeon is decisive, as is the type and extent of the intervention (diagnostic/therapeutic). The type of anaesthesia also influences the duration of the procedure.

All in all, an arthroscopy is usually a relatively short procedure – often the duration is only 20 minutes. However, if arthroscopy of the knee is used to perform surgery on the ligaments (see: Ligament injury in the knee joint) or on the cartilage (see: Cartilage damage in the knee), the duration of the operation is extended accordingly. It is then 45 minutes or more.

These operations are usually performed on an outpatient basis, so that the patient can leave the hospital after a few hours. High-risk patients with several secondary diseases may have to remain in hospital for a short period of time. Even a complicated arthroscopy prolongs the hospital stay.

In summary, arthroscopy is a procedure that is easy to perform and the duration of the operation is manageable. A knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure with only minor pain and swelling. In many cases, the procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis so that patients can leave the hospital on the same day.

However, in the case of larger operations that are associated with arthroscopy, such as cruciate ligament plastic surgery, the patient should remain in hospital for about 3 days, as post-operative bleeding and complications are more likely. A hospital stay of a few days is also recommended for older patients or patients with previous illnesses, in order to be able to monitor the consequences of the operation and the effects of the anaesthesia more closely. Even though knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure with little damage to the knee, pain and swelling occur after arthroscopy.

The treatment of the inner joint mucosa, cartilage and ligament structures results in small micro injuries, which lead to slight bleeding and pain in the following days. Usually the pain subsides within 4 days. Slight pain may still be present for 2-3 weeks.

The aim of arthroscopy is to restore complete mobility as quickly as possible after the operation. If the severe pain lasts longer than a week and restricts movement, the surgeon must be consulted. After an arthroscopy of the knee, swelling of the affected knee almost always occurs.

This swelling is a natural phenomenon after an operation. The swelling lasts for a few days after the arthroscopy and is removed by the lymph itself. The duration of the swelling can be reduced to two or three days by elevating, sparing and cooling the knee.

If the swelling does not subside over the course of a week or if pain is added, a doctor should be consulted for clarification to rule out inflammation and other complications. The duration of the follow-up treatment depends on the respective procedure and the previous general condition of the patient to be treated as well as his age. The duration of the post-treatment can be influenced positively by the patient if the recommended measures are carried out consistently.

The duration of the post-treatment also depends on the procedure that was performed with the arthroscopy. The dressing of the incisions is removed after about two to three days. The stitches are removed within one or two weeks after the arthroscopy on the knee.

Other follow-up appointments are also scheduled to assess the results of the arthroscopy and to detect any complications early on. In most cases, the duration of the follow-up treatment is thus 1-3 weeks. General follow-up treatment measures usually take a little longer.

At the beginning, these include, for example, elevating the patient and using walking aids, and later physiotherapy. Depending on the type of intervention, either a longer period of rest (e.g. in the case of an operation on a cruciate ligament) or early mobilisation (e.g. in the case of repaired meniscus damage) is required.

You should wait a little longer if you want to resume sporting activities. You should only start again after 6-8 weeks. Light sporting activities such as swimming or cycling are often possible earlier.

In the case of serious surgery, complications during arthroscopy or even in older people, the duration of post-operative treatment can be considerably longer. In general, no measures should be taken for the duration of follow-up treatment after arthroscopy of the knee without the recommendation or consultation of the treating physician. The duration of relief after a knee arthroscopy is only very short.

In the case of a pure knee arthroscopy, no measures are taken that have to heal or grow over time. However, since the procedure itself causes minor injuries to the joint and irritation of the cartilage, partial weight-bearing until the joint structures have recovered is advisable for a few days. The duration of the relief may depend on the pain and swelling.

These should not normally last longer than 4-5 days. Within this period of time, full loading of the knee should be started. If further procedures are performed on the cartilage, cruciate ligaments or other joint structures during arthroscopy, a longer relief period may be necessary.

In these cases, close consultation with the surgeon must take place regarding further treatment. As a rule, the leg can be fully loaded again early on after a knee arthroscopy. At the beginning, however, the pain prevents unrestricted movement.

As the pain subsides completely, movement can be increased and light sport can be practiced. As a rule, an increase in exercise is possible after 2-3 weeks. The joint should not be spared any longer than this, as this can lead to muscle atrophy and restrictions in mobility.

The duration of the incapacity to work also depends on the respective operation. At least as important is the condition of the patient – for example, whether there are any underlying diseases and how old you are. In most cases, the duration of the incapacity to work is a few days to weeks.

Depending on the activity performed, the duration can be longer or shorter. If most of the work can be performed in a sitting position without lifting heavy loads, it can usually be resumed after a few days. By contrast, persons who have to stand for long periods, often work on their knees or are exposed to greater physical stress, must reckon with a longer period of incapacity to work of 2-3 weeks.