Knee arthroscopy can help your doctors to discover the cause of your knee pain or help to resolve it altogether. The question is, would you benefit from having the procedure carried out privately? Here’s our guide to knee arthroscopy and the benefits of private treatment.
Knee arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery that can help your consultant orthopaedic surgeon to discover what's causing your knee pain or limited mobility in your knee joint.
Arthroscopic knee surgery can be used to diagnose the source of your knee problems or even to repair any damage.
It's carried out using a tiny camera on a thin, flexible tube that goes through incisions in your knee and lets your surgeon look around the inside of your knee joint.
Knee arthroscopy surgery can be carried out for several different reasons. Here are the three most common:
If you've experienced knee pain, swelling or stiffness, arthroscopic knee surgery can allow your surgeon to discover the cause. You might also be advised to have a knee arthroscopy if your knee locks, dislocates or gives way. It can help to diagnose problems with your cartilage or ligaments.
You may have other investigations, such as x-rays or an MRI scan first, followed up by an arthroscopy if these don't result in a diagnosis.
If you've been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, this can cause progressive damage to your joints, so your orthopaedic surgeon can carry out a knee arthroscopy to find out how well your knee is working.
Patients with osteoarthritis are often advised to initially lose weight and exercise to improve their condition. However, arthroscopy is usually recommended if this doesn't alleviate symptoms after three months.
Knee arthroscopy is also sometimes used for knee injuries if you've been involved in an accident or had a sporting injury.
Whilst a knee arthroscopy can be used as a diagnostic tool, it can also allow your surgeon to repair knee damage. You might have arthroscopic knee surgery to investigate the cause of your knee pain and find that your surgeon has been able to find and repair the damage simultaneously.
Arthroscopic surgery can repair damage to the articular cartilage, wash out damaged tissue, or perform a ligament reconstruction.
Knee arthroscopy is usually recommended as a diagnostic tool or a means to repair damage, but there are alternative means of diagnosis and treatment.
If you've been to see your GP about knee pain or problems with the joint, they'll likely recommend other investigations before opting for knee arthroscopy.
They may be able to diagnose the problem and recommend further treatment by referring you for an x-ray or MRI scan.
Many knee conditions benefit from lifestyle changes such as weight loss or weight-bearing exercise to strengthen the joint.
Physiotherapy sessions can also help with exercises to improve your mobility. Your physiotherapist can also recommend knee support devices and methods of pain relief.
Arthroscopic surgery generally has a quicker recovery rate than open knee surgery, so it's often chosen as a lower-risk option. While keyhole surgery can be used to repair broken cartilage or ligament damage, this isn't always an option. Your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend open surgery if you have more extensive damage.
If you've been advised that you need a knee arthroscopy, you may be happy to wait for NHS treatment. However, there are advantages to private treatment. Here are just a few.
Opting for private treatment means you can avoid NHS waiting lists. The latest statistics show that waiting times for non-urgent treatment exceed Government targets, with over 350,000 patients waiting over a year for treatment.
If you opt for private arthroscopic knee surgery, you could be seen in a couple of weeks.
You have a choice about the consultant who treats you in the NHS and private sectors, but you'll have more options if you go private.
Many private healthcare providers have a network of hospitals, and some also have facility-sharing agreements with NHS hospitals, so you can choose a location that suits you. You can even opt to go for treatment abroad if you'd prefer.
Some NHS consultants also practice privately, so you may be able to see the same surgeon for your arthroscopy.
Private healthcare companies invest heavily in the latest technology and medications, so you may benefit from techniques and treatments that aren't currently available on the NHS.
If you opt for a private hospital, you'll be given a private room that offers you more peace than a general recovery ward. Private hospitals are often more like boutique hotels. If you need to stay in the hospital after your procedure, you'll benefit from high-quality food, an en-suite bathroom and a TV.
The average cost of private knee arthroscopy surgery in the UK is £4,327.
This can vary depending on several factors, including the location of the hospital you choose, your surgeon's level of expertise and the healthcare company that treats you.
You can read more about the factors influencing private UK healthcare costs here.
As we've already mentioned, the cost of your surgery can vary depending on several factors. Location is most significant as it influences facility rents and staffing costs. Here are the average costs of knee arthroscopy in major cities across the UK:
It's important to note that these costs may vary within cities depending on your chosen provider.
Now that you've seen what you might expect to pay for your knee arthroscopy operation, you may be trying to work out how you might fund your treatment privately. There are three main options; choosing the right one will depend on your circumstances.
If you have some money saved for a rainy day, you may be able to pay for your treatment direct. You simply contact hospitals for quotes, choose your provider and pay their invoice. You can opt to pay for your initial consultation if you haven't already had an initial appointment with an NHS consultant.
When comparing quotes, it's essential to check what's included. Some will include follow-up checks and physiotherapy sessions, while others will only cover the procedure.
Most private healthcare providers have arrangements with loan companies that let you take out a loan to spread the cost of your treatment. These typically offer 0% finance for a few months, so you can pay in instalments without paying more in interest.
Private health insurance could fund your knee arthroscopy if your policy covers it. You'll need outpatient coverage for your initial appointment or investigations, including blood tests or scans. However, inpatient surgical procedures are covered by every policy. If you've had knee problems in the past, your insurance provider may have excluded it from coverage, so you may need to check.
When you opt for private care, you can choose the hospital and surgeon that suits your circumstances. If you've already had an initial consultation with an NHS surgeon, who's experienced in the type of treatment you need, you may find that you can see them privately.
You can also opt to have treatment close to home or prioritise the facilities and services that are most important to you.
There are several ways to gather information about consultants and hospitals, including recommendations from friends, the Care Quality Commission website and patient review sites. Find out more in our guide to choosing a private consultant.
When you've booked in for your knee arthroscopy, the hospital will contact you with details of the preparations you'll need to make before surgery. You'll also be given an appointment for a check-up.
The check-up allows your doctor to check your general health. They may arrange for blood tests, take your blood pressure, and ask you about your medical history. If you take any medication regularly, it's essential to take this with you as you may need to stop taking it before your surgery.
You'll also be advised about the preparations you'll need to make on the day of the operation and your recovery process. This will allow you to plan for any time off work and the care you might need when you go home after your knee arthroscopy.
Knee arthroscopy surgery can take anything from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on how much work your surgeon needs to do. Knee arthroscopy is usually done under a general anaesthetic, so you'll be asleep throughout the procedure. However, it can make you sick, so it's essential to avoid eating or drinking before your operation. Local anaesthetic isn't usually suitable, although spinal anaesthesia is sometimes used.
Keyhole surgery involves making two or three small incisions in your knee. Your surgeon will then rinse out the inside of your knee before inserting the arthroscope. This thin tube with a tiny camera sends images to a TV screen, allowing your consultant orthopaedic surgeon to see inside your knee.
Your surgeon may take photographs. If they can, they may treat your knee problem during your surgery. This could include repairing a torn meniscus or cartilage or carrying out an anterior cruciate ligament repair.
At the end of the operation, your surgeon will drain any excess fluid before closing the cuts with stitches or strips before applying a sterile dressing to your knee.
After your knee arthroscopy, you'll be taken to a recovery room to rest. You should be able to return home on the same day if you feel well enough. However, if you've had a general anaesthetic later in the day, you may need to spend a night in the hospital rather than going home on the same day.
You'll feel some knee pain and swelling as the anaesthetic wears off; you'll be offered pain relief medication as you need it.
You won't be able to drive after surgery, so have a friend or relative drive you home. The effects of the anaesthetic can take some time to wear off, so you must have someone with you for a couple of days when you first go home.
Most patients take around 4-6 weeks to recover, although it can take longer for some. You should be offered a follow-up appointment where you can discuss your recovery from surgery with your consultant. Here's what you can expect when you've had your surgery and are heading home to recover.
Your medical team will advise you on looking after your knee as you recover. You may need crutches or a walking aid to avoid putting weight on your knee joint for about a week after surgery.
You'll also be given a pressure stocking to wear to reduce your risk of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.
Even if your treatment package doesn't include any follow-up physiotherapy sessions, your surgeon will give you an exercise plan to follow to help you increase muscle strength in your knee so you can get back to your normal activities.
It's essential to do your exercises after you leave the hospital as this will help to increase blood flow and strengthen your knee.
After a couple of weeks, you can start building up your activity level. Start with light exercises such as walking or swimming, and stop if you experience discomfort. You may be more comfortable walking on softer surfaces like grass rather than pavement. Some swimmers find breaststroke uncomfortable, but other strokes are more manageable.
You should avoid high-impact sports for at least six weeks after you leave the hospital and talk to your surgeon before you resume any more strenuous activities.
Most patients experience pain and restricted movement because of scar tissue in their knee after surgery; you'll experience less pain as time passes, and you can take over-the-counter painkillers to help.
If you get any discharge from your incision, extreme pain and swelling or a high temperature, seek medical advice quickly, as these can be signs of an infection or sepsis.
Talk to your surgeon about returning to work and whether it's safe for you. The same procedure can affect different patients in different ways, so getting advice tailored to your circumstances is essential.
Many people can return to work within two to three weeks, but you may need to be off for longer if you work in a heavy manual job. Talk to your surgeon and your occupational health or HR department at work to discuss your return to work.
It can be frustrating when you can't get out and about after your surgery or if you're relying on other people for lifts. Even if you feel ready to drive, wait until your surgeon says you're ready.
You'll need to tell your insurers that you've had surgery to your knee as they'll need to assess the risk of driving while you recover. They may tell you not to drive until you've been medically advised to start again. That could mean you might not be insured if you drive too soon and have an accident.
If you're planning a holiday abroad, let your surgeon know. Your surgery increases your risk of DVT, and flying can increase it even further. This increased risk will only last for about a week, but it's important to let your surgeon know your plans.
Surgical procedures can cause other risks, particularly if you've had a general anaesthetic. Your surgeon can advise you on the steps to take to avoid or minimise the risk of complications.
Orthopaedic surgeons and medical researchers continue to look for new ways to improve surgical outcomes, shorten recovery times and reduce complications. Opting for private treatment could help you benefit from recent advances and techniques as private providers invest heavily in medical research.
One of the key focus areas for knee surgery is anterior cruciate ligament repair, as it's traditionally been difficult to achieve excellent results. Surgeons have trialled various techniques and found that a patient-focused approach works best.
There is ongoing research into the outcomes that can be achieved with different techniques and instruments to avoid tissue damage and improve healing.
There seems to be increased optimism that tears that couldn't previously have been repaired will now benefit from surgery.
The research into cartilage repair surgery has generally focused on surgical techniques and achieving the best anatomical results, for example, achieving good alignment in your knee to make weight bearing easier and reduce knee pain.
However, they are now increasingly looking at ways to improve healing after surgery.
This article from the Journal of Arthroscopic Surgery and Sports Medicine predicts that future research in this area will focus on using natural biological injectables and implants to improve results.
This could include stem cell therapy or ligament repairs using your blood plasma rather than a traditional surgical repair.
Most patients make a straightforward recovery from their knee arthroscopy, but even arthroscopic surgery carries some risks. Complications can include DVT, infection, nerve damage, muscle weakness or persistent pain.
Your surgeon will take precautions to prevent complications from knee arthroscopy surgery, including providing you with a pressure stocking and offering physiotherapy sessions. Showering or bathing before surgery can reduce your risk of infection.
You should seek medical advice immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after your knee arthroscopy:
Most leading healthcare providers offer knee arthroscopy surgery at private hospitals and clinics across the UK.
Nuffield Health offers knee arthroscopy at 32 of their 36 hospitals across the UK; find your nearest treatment centre on their website.
Ramsay Health prides itself on offering patient-focused healthcare. They offer keyhole knee surgery at 30 hospitals in England.
Spire offers treatment via 39 hospitals and eight clinics in the UK. You can send an enquiry for information on knee surgery via their website.
Circle Health operates 54 private hospitals across the UK, offering a range of surgical and non-surgical treatments for knee pain. Visit their website for details of their specialist surgeons or to book your initial consultation.
HCA is a US-based healthcare company that has been providing private care in the UK since 1995. Whilst they have treatment centres in both London and Manchester, knee arthroscopy surgery is currently only available at six hospitals in London.
We hope this guide has helped you understand your options and the costs of private treatment.
Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.
The average cost of private knee arthroscopy surgery in the UK is £4,327.
During knee arthroscopy surgery, your surgeon will make two or three small incisions in your knee. They'll then insert the arthroscope, a thin tube with a tiny camera that lets your consultant orthopaedic surgeon see the inside of your knee joint.
They may take photographs or repair damage inside your knee. Afterwards, they'll close the incisions with stitches or strips and apply a dressing.
Yes. Several private hospitals across the UK offer knee arthroscopies.
Your surgeon may recommend a knee arthroscopy operation to find out what's causing your knee problems, to check on your knee joint's health or repair damage to your cartilage or ligaments.
No. If you have, your surgeon can write a referral letter for you. Alternatively, you can pay for a private appointment and diagnostic tests.
After your arthroscopic knee surgery, you may be able to go home on the same day. You'll be given exercises to do and a pressure stocking to wear to reduce the risk that you'll develop a blood clot. However, it will take a while for the effects of the anaesthetic to wear off. You won't be able to put weight on your knee joint for about a week after your operation. Most people recover within about 4-6 weeks, but full recovery can take longer.