Physical Examination of the Knee
A complete knee examination is always done for a knee complaint. Both of your knees will be checked, and the results for the injured knee will be compared to those of the healthy knee. Your doctor will also check that the nerves and blood vessels are intact.
Your doctor will:
A McMurray test may be done if your doctor suspects a problem with the menisci based on your medical history and the above exams. In this test, while you lie on the table, your doctor holds your knee and the bottom of your foot. He or she then pushes your leg up (bending your knee) while turning the leg and pressing on the knee. If there is pain and the sound or feeling of a click, the menisci may be damaged.
Arthrometric testing of the knee may also be done. In this test, your doctor will use an instrument to measure the looseness of your knee. This test is especially useful in people whose pain or physical size makes a physical exam difficult. An arthrometer has two sensor pads and a pressure handle that allows your doctor to put force on the knee. The instrument is strapped on to your lower leg so that the sensor pads are placed on the knee cap and the small bump just below it (tibial tubercle). Your doctor then measures pressure by pulling or pushing on the pressure handle.
Your exam may also include other tests to assess the degree of the injury and to identify damage to other parts of the knee.
Why It Is Done
A complete physical exam of the knee is always done for a knee complaint, whether the complaint is from a recent or sudden (acute) injury or from long-lasting or recurrent (chronic) symptoms.
In general, in a normal knee exam:
If any of these findings are not true—for example, the knee is tender—you may have a knee injury. But the results of a knee exam vary depending on whether the exam is for a sudden injury to the knee or for long-term symptoms and also depending on how long it has been since the injury occurred. An abnormal finding does not always mean that your knee is injured. Your doctor will use the results of the exam, plus your medical history, to make a diagnosis.
What To Think About
These tests provide the best information if there is little or no knee swelling, you are able to relax, and your doctor is able to move your knee and leg freely. If this is not the case, it may be difficult to accurately check your knee.
If your knee is red, hot, or very swollen, a knee joint aspiration (arthrocentesis) may be done, which involves removing fluid from the knee joint. This is done to:
Local anesthetic may be injected after aspiration to reduce pain and make the exam easier.
If you are going to have arthroscopy, the knee may be examined in the operating room before the procedure, while you are under general or spinal anesthesia.
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