Knee Arthroscopic Surgery -What is it?

Beth Sullivan | September 17th, 2018

Joe Mixon underwent knee arthroscopic surgery for loose bodies in his knee and the reported time he is expected to miss is 2-4 weeks. In my opinion, most fans should expect the greater rather than the lesser of these estimates.

Arthroscopic surgery is an outpatient surgical procedure performed to enable the surgeon to visualize the inside of the knee-joint without having to perform a major incision. This is the gold standard in knee surgery and most knee procedures except extensive reconstructions are done in this manner. The entire procedure is done utilizing a high-definition camera and many procedures are performed by inserting surgical tools through special ports in the camera into the knee joint. This allows for much smaller incisions, reduced trauma to knee tissues, and overall faster recovery times than open-knee procedures.

Common Arthroscopic Knee Procedures

  • Removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage
  • Removal or repair of a torn meniscus
  • Removal of inflamed synovial tissue
  • Trimming of damaged articular cartilage
  • Treatment of patella (kneecap) problems
  • Treatment of knee sepsis (infection)
  • Reconstruction of a torn anterior cruciate ligament

In the procedure that Mixon underwent, the surgeon removes debris from within the knee joint. This debris is usually a piece of bone, cartilage or other tissue that has broken free and is floating within the joint. The sooner this surgery is performed after the presence of the loose body is diagnosed, the less likely more significant damage to the joint or cartilage as a result of these loose bodies is. Normally, the patient is admitted as an outpatient, the procedure takes about an hour to perform, and they are then discharged home with a knee brace and crutches. The patient is instructed to keep the leg elevated and iced for a few days to prevent swelling and excessive scar tissue formation. Once the incision sites have begun to heel and the patient is without pain, they can begin to rehab with range-of-motion exercises like riding a bicycle and strengthening the muscles and ligaments that stabilize the knee joint.

The loose bodies, if they are not properly removed, can result in further injury to the cartilage or ligaments. This can lead to early onset osteoarthritis which would be detrimental to an athletes long-term playing career. The goal of recovery is to maximize range-of-motion of the joint as well as strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the joint operated on as well as the supporting joints of the affected leg. Swelling and pain are the two factors that impact recovery the most. Most patients have healed incision sites after two weeks provided there is no setback due to infection. The athlete then works with the trainers and physical therapist to improve strength and stability of the joint. 38% of athletes return to full participation after 3 weeks and 94 % return to full sport participation after 6 weeks. The main determining factors is how much trauma the joint is subjected to as the result of the initial injury and the subsequent surgery. The larger the loose bodies removed, the longer the recovery time most athletes experience.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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About Beth Sullivan

I am a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan who grew up in Hamburg, NY but now lives outside Athens, GA. I have been married to a Patriots, Red Sox and Packers fan for over 30 years and we are the proud parents of 5 kids and 8 grandkids. I am a board certified osteopathic physician with over 20 years experience. I am also a polymer clay artist and create one of a kind polymer pieces for jewelry, and home decor. You can see some of my recent work on Instagram @georgiapeachpolymer. If you have an idea for a topic you would like to see covered, shoot me a message on Twitter @GAPeachPolymer