​Additional Resources

Learn more about Sports Medicine services at UPMC.

Knee Arthroscopy

Knee arthroscopy (ARE-throw-skopp-ee) gives a view of the inside of your knee. This procedure allows the doctor to see if you have a knee injury or abnormality. The doctor may also use arthroscopy to correct your knee problem.



Arthroscopy can detect knee problems such as:


  • Tears in ligaments or tendons
  • Pain and swelling (inflammation)
  • Fractures
  • Loose pieces of bone or cartilage
  • Joint wear and tear



Arthroscopy can treat knee problems such as:


  • Tears in meniscus (men-ISS-kiss) cartilage
  • Wear and tear of other cartilage
  • Tears in ligaments
  • Other knee problems

Arthroscopy uses only a few small incisions. Usually you have this procedure as an outpatient. You go home the same day as your surgery.

What happens during surgery?

First you are given anesthesia. Patients usually receive either general or spinal anesthesia. Then a very tight band is placed on the thigh of your affected leg. The band reduces the amount of bleeding in the joint and gives the doctor a better view. This band is called a tourniquet.

Two or three small incisions are made in the knee. The doctor can insert instruments through the incisions. First your knee is filled with sterile fluid. The fluid expands the knee joint to make more room inside for the doctor to see and work.

Next, a tube that has a small light and camera is inserted in the knee. The tube is called an arthroscope (ARE-throw-scope). The camera sends an image of your knee to a TV monitor. The doctor can view the inside of your knee on the monitor.

When possible, the doctor uses special surgical instruments to correct the injury or abnormality. Then the joint is washed out with a stream of fluid, and the instruments are removed. The incisions are closed with stitches, staples, or Steri-Strips. Last, a dressing is put on the incisions.

After your surgery

Dressing care

It is important to keep the outer dressing clean and dry after surgery. The doctor will let you know when to remove this outer dressing.

Underneath the outer dressing, you will find a smaller dressing over the incision. This may be a clear plastic dressing, called Opsite. You also may find several Band-Aids or Steri- Strips on the incision. Keep this smaller dressing in place until your follow-up visit, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. The Steri-Strips will peel off themselves.

For pain and swelling

It is important to keep your leg raised when you are not walking. Keep your ankle higher than your knee, and your knee higher than your hip. This will help reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Ice packs also can help with swelling and pain. For the first 48 hours, you may use ice packs for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, several times a day.

Your doctor may prescribe pain medicine to use at home. Take your pain medicine as prescribed.


To prevent movement

You may need to wear a special brace or immobilizer (im-OH-bill-eye-zer) on your knee. These devices provide support and comfort.



Physical therapy

Your doctor or therapist may tell you to do special exercises after surgery. These will help restore movement and strength to your knee.


You may be given crutches. Crutches help control the amount of weight you place on your leg. Your doctor or therapist will tell you how to use the crutches and when you can stop using them.

When to call the doctor

If you have any of the following, call your doctor:

  • Chills or a fever of 101 F (38.3 C) or above
  • New or unusual drainage on your dressing
  • Redness, swelling, or drainage from your incisions
  • Swelling or pain in the calf of your affected leg
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Pain not relieved by taking prescribed pain medicine, raising your leg, or applying ice
  • Discoloration, numbness, or tingling in the affected leg or toes of the affected leg

Follow-up appointment

Keep your follow-up appointments with your doctor. It is important for your doctor to monitor your progress. Your doctor will check for any problems that may develop after surgery.

Call your doctor’s office for a follow-up appointment:



Doctor’s name:


Doctor’s phone number:


If you have questions

If you any questions or concerns, call your doctor or nurse.

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit www.healthwise.org

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA | UPMC.com