There are a number of different surgeries for which varying lengths of recovery time are required. Since the knee is a weight-bearing body part, patients should follow recovery directions to allow for proper healing. Most patients require physical therapy at some point following knee surgery.
Arthroscopy knee surgery is done on an outpatient basis and is used to diagnose knee problems and provide treatments such as removing torn cartilage, repairing ligaments and taking out bone fragments. A small incision is made on the knee, through which the surgeon operates. It should take about six to eight weeks for patients to recover fully from arthroscopic knee surgery.
The leg should remain elevated and iced for the first few days following outpatient surgery. After seeing the surgeon for the post-surgical examination, most healthy people can start walking on the leg shortly thereafter. Some people will need to use a cane or crutches and perform leg strengthening physical therapy exercises for a few weeks.
Reconstructive knee surgery, or anthroplasty, involves replacing the knee joint cartilage with metal or plastic and is a much more complicated operation. A hospital stay of three to seven days is required following a knee replacement procedure. The patient must be able to get out of bed and walk with crutches before being discharged.
Patients can begin to bear weight on the repaired knee in about three weeks following surgery. They should keep the leg elevated whenever possible and use ice to reduce swelling. Intensive physical therapy usually is required after anthroplasty.
A person who has had knee replacement surgery needs assistance for at least two to three weeks while at home. Some people who do not have in-home caregivers may need to spend a couple weeks in a rehabilitation center.
Patients should see complete restoration of their leg within six to 12 months if they follow the physical therapy regimen and do not re-injure the knee by doing certain activities too soon after surgery.