Today, many surgical procedures are no longer open, but minimally invasive. One of the most common procedures is knee arthroscopy. It is used diagnostically to present ligaments, cartilage and bones in case of suspected injury as well as therapeutically for the treatment of potential damage.
The duration of arthroscopy on the knee is primarily dependent on the diagnosis made in advance and the extent of the injury.


An advantage of knee arthroscopy is the shorter duration and associated lower risks during and after surgery. The duration of the surgery and the subsequent phases will be described in more detail below.

Duration of arthroscopy at the knee

The duration of the surgery depends on several factors. The diagnosis and extent of injury play the biggest role in the duration of arthroscopy. In addition, the expertise and experience of the surgeon and the nature and extent of the intervention (diagnostic / therapeutic) are crucial. The type of anesthesia also influences the duration of the procedure.

Overall, arthroscopy is usually a relatively short procedure - often lasting only 20 minutes. However, if arthroscopy is used on the knee to perform surgery on the ligaments (see: ligament injury to the knee) or cartilage (see: cartilage damage in the knee), the duration of surgery will be extended accordingly. It is then 45 minutes or more.

These interventions are usually performed on an outpatient basis so that the patient can leave the hospital after a few hours. At-risk patients with multiple minor illnesses may need to stay in hospital for a short while. Even a complicated arthroscopy extends the hospital stay.

In summary, arthroscopy is a well-performed procedure and the duration of surgery is manageable.

Duration of hospitalization

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 are allowed to leave the hospital on the same day.

However, for major arthroscopic procedures, such as a cruciate ligament surgery, the patient should remain in the hospital for about 3 days as rebleeding and complications are more likely.
In elderly patients or patients with pre-existing conditions, a hospital stay of a few days is recommended in order to be able to monitor more intensively the consequences of the operation and the effects of anesthesia.

Duration of pain

Although knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure with little damage to the knee, pain and swelling occur after joint surgery. The treatment of the inner mucous membranes, cartilage and ligamentous structures leads to small micro-injuries, which in the following days lead to slight bleeding and pain.

As a rule, the pain subsides within 4 days. Mild pain may still be present for 2-3 weeks.
The aim of arthroscopy is to restore full mobility as soon as possible after the procedure. Should the severe pain persist for more than a week and restrict the movement, consultation with the surgeon must be maintained.

Duration of swelling

After an arthroscopy on the knee, there is almost always a swelling on the affected knee. This swelling is a natural phenomenon after surgery. The swelling stops after arthroscopy for a few days and is ablated by the lymph. The duration of the swelling can be reduced to a maximum of two or three days by storing, skinning and cooling the knee.

If the swelling does not regress or increase in severity over a period of one week, however, a doctor should be consulted to rule out inflammation and other complications.

Duration of aftertreatment

The duration of the post-treatment depends on the respective intervention and prior general condition of the patient to be treated as well as his age. The duration of the follow-up treatment can be strongly influenced positively by the patient, if the recommended measures are consistently carried out. The duration of the follow-up treatment also depends on the procedure performed with the arthroscopy.

The dressing of the cuts is removed after about two to three days. The sutures are pulled in the knee within one or two weeks after arthroscopy. There are also scheduled additional follow-up appointments to assess the outcome of arthroscopy and detect any complications early. Usually the duration of the follow-up treatment is 1-3 weeks.

General post-treatment usually takes a little longer. These include at the beginning, for example, the high camp and the use of walking aids, later the implementation of physiotherapy. Depending on the type of procedure, either prolonged protection (eg in the case of surgery for a cruciate ligament) or early mobilization (eg repair of the meniscal damage) must be carried out. A little longer should be waited if you want to take up sports activities again. You should only get back to them after 6-8 weeks. Light sports such as swimming or cycling are often possible earlier.

For severe surgery, arthroscopic complications, or even in the elderly, the duration of follow-up treatment can be significantly extended. In general, you should not carry out any measures without the recommendation or consultation with the attending physician for the duration of the post-treatment after an arthroscopy at the knee.

Duration of discharge

The duration of the relief after knee arthroscopy is very low. In a pure knee arthroscopy, no measures are taken that have to heal or grow slowly. Nevertheless, as the procedure itself leads to minor injuries in the joint and irritation of the cartilage, partial loading until recovery of the joint structures is sensible for a few days.

The duration of the relief can be based on the pain and the swelling. These should normally not last longer than 4-5 days. Within this period the full load of the knee should be started.
If arthroplasty involves further interventions on the cartilage, the cruciate ligaments or other joint structures, a longer discharge time may be necessary. In these cases, the surgeon must have a close agreement on the further treatment.

Duration of the sports break

As a rule, after a knee arthroscopy, the leg can be fully loaded again early. At the beginning, however, the pain prevents unrestricted movement.
With the complete resolution of the pain, the movement can also be increased and easier sport can be exercised. As a rule, a training increase is possible after 2-3 weeks. For a long time the joint should not be spared, as it can lead to muscle atrophy and restrictions on mobility.

Duration of incapacity

The duration of incapacity also depends on the particular intervention. At least as important is the condition of the patient - for example, if underlying diseases are present and how old you are.
The duration of incapacity is in most cases a few days to weeks. Depending on which activity is performed, the duration may be longer or shorter. If it is mainly work that can be done while sitting without lifting heavy loads, it can usually be resumed after just a few days. On the other hand, persons who have to stand for a long time, often work on their knees or are exposed to greater physical stress, have to expect a longer period of inactivity of 2-3 weeks.

When does a knee arthroscopy come into question?

The reasons for performing arthroscopy on the knee are diagnostic and therapeutic. It is used for injuries to structures within the knee joint.

Indications of an injury can be, for example, pain, swelling (see: joint swelling of the knee) and instability of the knee. Different structures of the knee can trigger the complaints. These include the cruciate ligaments, cartilage, menisci, joint capsule and mucosa. A meniscal tear, which usually occurs after the impact of violence on the knee, causes, for example, stinging pain usually on the side of the knee on the affected side. Wear-related damage in old age also requires partial arthroscopy. If signs of a cruciate ligament rupture appear in parallel, arthroscopy is indicated as well.

Arthroscopy offers the opportunity to examine the structures of the knee directly and then to treat them. When diagnosing knee injuries, arthroscopy is used when other methods fail to provide enough information. Here, the treating physician under direct vision, ligaments, tendons. Assess articular cartilage and menisci. After arthroscopy, a diagnosis is made. A purely diagnostic arthroscopy is rather rare, as most diagnoses can be made in advance by MRI or X-ray. So you usually have a treatment goal or it is followed by a therapeutic action. As part of the therapy, the arthroscopy at the knee is used very often, also because it significantly undercuts the duration of an open surgery. Depending on the findings, a damaged cartilage can be smoothed or removed, a common indication is the suture of a torn meniscus. Even a torn ACL can be treated with arthroscopy in the knee.


Arthroscopy on the knee is an often performed and well tolerated procedure. With proper and adequate follow-up treatment, the duration of the restriction after arthroscopy is limited to a few weeks.
Of course, general risks such as infection or bleeding can have a strong negative impact on the prognosis.


In order to protect his knee and to avoid arthroscopy at the knee, one should pay attention to low loads on the knee, especially in sports. Bandages, savers and trained muscles reduce the likelihood of a serious knee injury. However, one hundred percent prophylaxis is not possible

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