If you are lining up for an arthroscopy (key-hole surgery) what do you need to know about the risks of infection?
Firstly, your skin is your best barrier against infection, so any break in the skin creates a risk.
The main benefits of key-hole surgery is the very small incision site. This causes less trauma to the knee and therefore less pain. Small incisions also mean a decreased risk of infection as more of the skin is intact.
Primarily for this reason infections following knee arthroscopy are very rare. Rates vary from hospital to hospital but are generally less than 1%.
This is good news as deep infections following surgery are a serious complication. Unlike getting a cut on your hand infected, a joint infection offers bacteria more options to thrive. The surgical incision goes all the way into the joint and offers a point of access to this warm, moist environment.
Superficial skin infections can usually be treated by oral antibiotics but joint infections often require a return to theatre for a washout as well as antibiotics.
Infections will always be a risk with any surgical intervention, but it is reassuring to know that the odds are very much on your side with arthroscopic surgery.