Knee Arthroscopy Risks

Your surgeon may recommend a knee arthroscopy to gather more information about your knee, or to perform arthroscopic (keyhole) procedures to improve your symptoms. Most people who undergo aknee arthroscopy do not have any complications however, any surgical procedure carries some risks. Some of these risks are seriousso, it is important to consider this with your surgeon before making the decision to proceed. If you are having a having a therapeutic procedure at the same time as your arthroscopy (eg an ACL reconstruction) you will need to also read about the risks associated with that specific procedure. You can find these details under the information page for each procedure.

The knee will be painful after the procedure but pain killers will be given to reduce this as much as possible.

Other common risks (affecting 2-5% of patients) include:

  • Swelling/Haemarthrosis:
    This is a collection of fluid or blood in the knee joint. In most cases, the body will absorb the fluid itself. If the swelling becomes too large, the surgeon may feel an operation is necessary to drain the fluid
  • Numbness:
    The skin around the knee may be temporarily or permanently numb due to damage of small nerves

Rare risks (affecting less than 1% of patients) include:

  • Infection:
    The wound sites may become red, painful and hot. There may also be a discharge. These are signs of infection and can usually be treated by antibiotics. The infection may spread to the knee joint itself (requiring a washout) and removal of the graft. Infection may also spread to the blood (sepsis) requiring intravenous antibiotics
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or Pulmonary Embolism (PE):
    A DVT is a blood clot, usually in the calf/ leg. They can cause swelling and pain. Very rarely may they travel to the lungs (a PE) and cause a serious medical emergency
  • Damage to the Structures Within or Around the Knee:
    This is rare, but may cause further damage and symptoms. This may need further treatment including operation. These include fracture, meniscal surgery or debridement of scar tissue
  • Abnormal Wound Healing:
    The scars may become thick, red and painful (keloid scar). This is more common in in patients of certain races. There may also be delayed healing or wound oozing
  • Compartment Syndrome:
    This is a build up of pressure within the lower leg and can cause nerve damage, blood vessel damage and muscle damage. If this occurs, an emergency operation will have to be performed to prevent death of tissue of the lower leg/ foot
  • Osteoarthritis:
    This can be more common after knee injuries and operations