Arthroscopic knee surgery takes approximately 45 minutes, depending on the extensiveness of the surgery. Normally, a patient is under general anesthetic during surgery. A small incision is made on the knee and allows surgical instruments to be placed into the knee. A fiber optic camera is inserted into the knee to provide a clear view of the interior knee. A torn meniscus or cartilage will be removed or repaired with arthroscopic instruments. Normally, arthroscopic knee surgery patients go home the same day of surgery unless there are complications.
Anatomy of the Knee
The knee is largest joint of the body and is also the most easily injured. The knee consists of ligaments, cartilage, the lower portion of the thigh bone, the upper portion of the shin, and the knee cap. Cartilage helps cushion movement in the knee and work to stabilize the bones. Arthroscopy is meant to diagnose or treat problems in the knee. Some surgeons use arthroscopic surgery to determine if open knee surgery for reconstruction is necessary.
Crutches and Bearing Weight
Each patient has a different healing time for recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. Some patients may use crutches for the first few days after surgery. Once the pain decreases, the use of crutches will be decreased and more weight may be placed on your leg as strength improves.
Because of the small size of the incision, steri-strips are normally used over the incision. These last about seven to 10 days. In the case that stitches are used, most surgeons use stitches that dissolve so they do not need to be removed.
Approximately six weeks after surgery, joint fluid begins to regenerate. The pain and stiffness should have passed, and it is normal to begin feeling the full benefits of the arthroscopic surgery at this time.
Physical therapy will be discussed at the post-op visit with the surgeon. The focus of physical therapy is to encourage patients to regain their range of motion and reduce swelling.
Patients are often prescribed pain medication for the first few weeks post-op. Narcotic medication can be addictive, so it is important to decrease the amount over time and switch to over the counter medications.
Return to Activities
Depending on the amount of stiffness, swelling, and pain, the time it takes to return to normal activities will vary. Some patients who have undergone arthroscopic knee surgery return to activities within a week, others take approximately six weeks before they can return to activities or sports. Recovery time from arthroscopic knee surgery often depends on the amount of rest within the first few days after surgery. The first few days of surgery, keep your leg elevated and apply ice to reduce pain and swelling.