Knee arthroscopy surgery: what you need to know

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What happens during the surgery?

Surgery entails three or four incisions being made so that a fiber-optic camera and other special medical instruments can be inserted into your knee. A sterile solution is continuously applied into the joint of the knee through tubing to provide the surgeon with a clear view when operating. Damaged cartilage and/or torn parts of the meniscus are carefully removed using arthroscopic surgical instruments, resulting in the tissue around the knee being made smoother and more stable.

How long does the surgery take?

The length of the surgery time depends on the extent of the work needed and can vary from 30 minutes up to 45 minutes. Most patients are given a general anaesthetic and ‘go to sleep’ during the surgery. Alternatively, a spinal anaesthetic could be used.

What is the recovery time?

As with most surgery, the length of the recovery time after knee arthroscopy surgery varies from person to person. Patients may need to use crutches for the few days after surgery; this depends on how much pain the patient feels post surgery. After a few days have passed most patients start to feel more comfortable and after five days patients can usually walk with only a slight limp. Some people find a cane helpful during the first week after surgery.

It can take up to six weeks after arthroscopic surgery for the knee to restore joint fluid back to normal levels. This means that it can take up to six weeks for patients to feel the benefit of their surgery. Recovery times vary greatly between patients and, while some may be able to return to everyday activities after two weeks, most will require six weeks before they can comfortably return to activities. Full recovery from surgery, including improvement in strength, coordination, range of motion, and swelling reduction, is an ongoing process that can take up to four months.

How long before I can return to work?

The length of time before returning to work depends on your profession. You should consult with your physician for an appropriate timeline to resume work. If your work isn’t physical, you can generally return after one week. If your profession involves vigorous physical activity, it can take up to 10 weeks before you can resume your work duties.

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