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Arthroscopy Of The Knee

Recovering After Arthroscopy

Last modified: 
16/03/2012 - 16:44

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

  • You will usually have recovered enough to be driven home a few hours after the surgery.
  • You may or may not be allowed to put weight on your knee immediately after surgery, depending on what was done to your knee. A physical therapist will help you get mobile with crutches before going home.
  • Expect some swelling and discomfort in the knee for a few days. You will be given a prescription for pain medication and an anti-inflammatory drug to deal with the swelling.

Need To Know:

Tips to help your recovery

  • Elevate your leg on a couple of pillows to reduce swelling.
  • Ice the knee periodically for about 10 - 15 minutes at a time during the first week. Do not apply the ice directly to the knee, but wrap the ice in a waterproof pack, which you can then wrap in a towel and place on your knee.
  • Take the medications prescribed by your doctor.
  • Move your ankles up and down. This simple exercise, called "ankle pumps," is important for preventing possible blood clots in the leg.
  • Use crutches if you have been told to keep weight off the knee.
  • Do the exercises you have been told to do in order to quickly regain the strength in your leg.
  • Gradually increase your walking as instructed by your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist.
  • If you have been fitted with a brace, be sure to wear it.

Caring For The Incision

Sutures may or may not have been used to close the wounds. Your doctor will instruct you when you may remove the bandage, usually within a day or two (depending on the procedure), leaving smaller dressings over the actual incisions.

Your doctor will let you know how long to wait before you can get your knee wet, but in general, do not get your knee wet until the sutures are removed. You will need to cover the leg with a large plastic bag when bathing, to keep the incision dry for the first week to 10 days.

Need To Know:

When to contact your doctor

There are very few complications that occur after arthroscopy, but you should be aware of the possibility of postoperative problems. Contact your doctor if:

  • There is increasing pain and swelling in the knee
  • The knee becomes increasingly red
  • Fluid or pus oozes from a wound
  • You have a fever above 101°
  • You have pain and tenderness in the calf muscle (this may suggest a clot in the veins)
  • You have chest pain (this may suggest a blood clot in the lung).
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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.