How Do You Know Whether You Need Knee Surgery?

Jul 31, 2020 | Articles

Our knees are the largest joints in our bodies – and one of the joints that often suffers from the most wear and tear. Having issues with your knees, whether it’s an injury or a condition, can be excruciatingly painful and extremely debilitating. The good news is that various knee surgery and related procedures exist to heal injuries and alleviate pain, but how do you know whether such a serious treatment is necessary?

The required treatment will be directly related to both the type of injury or condition and the severity of the condition. Typically, a doctor would refer a patient to a specialist who will examine the case and determine whether or not knee surgery is required.

Possible Injuries and Health Issues

Primarily, the knees allow for the flexion and extension of the leg. This movement is what enables us to stand up, walk, run, jump, lift and even sit, to name but a few common actions. As can be seen from merely looking at these primary functions, these joints perform a lot of work and are particularly susceptible to injury.

Pain in the knees can be caused by degeneration, trauma, misalignment, or conditions such as arthritis. Age is also one of the contributors to disorders that affect the knees. Generally, the health of the knees plays a significant role in the overall fitness of an individual, and many injuries are as a result of sport, which can effectively end a participant’s ability to play. Injuries can take the form of fractures, torn ligaments, ruptured tendons, or overexertion of the joint.

Treating the knees can range from home rest and placing ice on the joint, to knee surgery and even arthroplasty (replacement). However, it is always important to choose the most effective treatment that is also the least invasive. Knee surgery can do wonders but should not be the first choice if other options exist.

Knee Arthroscopy as a Solution

Arthroscopy is a type of surgery that can be used both as a treatment, such as repairing ligaments of the joint, or as a way to diagnose issues, such as a misaligned patella or a torn meniscus. The procedure involves a surgeon making a very small incision to insert an arthroscope into the joint. An arthroscope is a tiny camera, which allows the surgeon to view the inside of the joint on a monitor without having to physically open the entire joint. Being able to see what is causing the problem, enables the surgeon to either determine what the next steps would be to treat the issue, or to simply correct the issue immediately using the capabilities of the arthroscope.

Aside from the diagnostic potential of this procedure, one of the greatest advantages of arthroscopy is the fact that it generally poses much less risk than traditional methods of knee surgery, and recovery time is usually shorter. It is, however, important to note that the prognosis and recovery time required depends on the conditions being treated and the severity of that condition.

A doctor might recommend an arthroscopy if a patient is experiencing pain in one or both knees, either to make a diagnosis or to determine the extent of the damage if a diagnosis has already been made. The following knee injuries are some of the conditions that can be diagnosed and/or treated by arthroscopic surgery:

  • Bone fractures
  • Swollen lining of the joint (synovium)
  • Torn cruciate ligament (anterior or posterior)
  • Torn cartilage (meniscus) between the bones
  • Location or removal of loose pieces of torn cartilage in the joint
  • Patella that is misaligned or out of place
  • Removal of a Baker’s cyst (a cyst filled with lubrication fluid from the joint that causes a feeling of tightness and pain behind the knees)

Depending on the severity of the condition that is being treated and the complexity of the knee surgery that is about to take place, a doctor can perform the procedure under local anaesthetic (this numbs the knee are only), regional anaesthetic (this numbs the patient from the waist down), or general anaesthetic (which puts the patient to sleep for the duration of the procedure). Most often the procedure takes less than an hour (depending on the severity of the condition), and recovery will most likely happen at home.

For more information on knee arthroscopy surgery, talk to the medical professionals at Pretoria Hip, Knee & Shoulder Surgeons.