Knee arthroscopy is one of the most common surgical procedures worldwide and the number of arthroscopies has substantially increased in the last 30 years. Thus the study provided updated estimates on the risk of complications and compare it with the background risk in the general population

Knee arthroscopy is one of the most common surgical procedures worldwide and the number of arthroscopies has substantially increased in the last 30 years. The patients are often younger or middle-aged physically active individuals.

Annually, there are about one million such procedures performed in the United States and in Sweden (population 9.5 million) the corresponding number is about 35,000. The most common procedures are meniscectomy, meniscal repair, and cruciate ligament reconstruction.

We identified patients aged 15-84 years with knee arthroscopy in the years 2005-2016 in southern Sweden. We calculated the risk of pyogenic arthritis, venous thromboembolism, and other typical complications within 30 days.

As a reference cohort we included the regional population in the corresponding age interval. We estimated the relative and absolute risks of complications compared to the reference cohort using logistic regression adjusted for age, sex, and level of education. We also estimated the proportion of complications in the population explained by knee arthroscopy (population attributable fraction).

Results

We identified 18,735 knee arthroscopy patients (mean age 39 years) and 1,171,084 reference subjects (mean age 46 years). The absolute risk of one or more complications was 1.1% after knee arthroscopy and 0.16% in references.

The odds ratio of any complication after knee arthroscopy vs. the reference cohort was 9.4 (95% confidence interval [CI] 8.1, 10.9) with an absolute risk difference of 1.4% (1.1, 1.6%). The relative risk (95% CI) for pyogenic arthritis was 115 (75, 174), venous thromboembolism 6.8 (5.1, 9.1), and other complications 7.7 (6.3, 9.5). The population attributable fraction for pyogenic arthritis was 5%.

The absolute risks of complications associated with knee arthroscopy remain small at about 1%. Still, 5% of all pyogenic knee arthritis cases in adults are attributable to knee arthroscopy, thus risks with knee arthroscopy should be carefully considered in the choice of treatment.