Injuries can cause knee pain and swelling making it difficult to bend or put weight on it. If swelling occurs immediately following an injury, this may suggest a ligament tear or fracture. If the swelling arises over a period of many hours, the meniscus or cartilage may have been injured. Conversely, injuries causing knee pain may involve more than one structure and the symptoms may not present as straightforward. A proper assessment of your knee pain by a trained medical professional is key to a proper diagnosis. The professional may require a diagnostic test such as an x-ray, or MRI to ensure the accuracy of the diagnosis of your knee pain.
Knee pain may be intermittent and may not occur right away with activity; it might be delayed as the inflammation develops. Knee pain may be felt with specific activities, for example, knee pain while climbing stairs is a symptom of meniscus injury, whereas knee pain experienced while walking down stairs suggests patellar pain as the kneecap is forced onto the femur.
Giving way, or a feeling of instability of the knee, or popping or grinding in the knee, is associated with cartilage or meniscus tears. “Locked knee” is the term used when the knee joint refuses to completely straighten, and this is nearly always attributed to torn cartilage.
Knee Surgery – with the exception of knee replacement and certain types of trauma care, arthroscopy is the common recommended surgical approach for knees. Arthroscopy instrumentation gives surgeons a clear view of the inside of the knee, which helps them properly diagnose and treat the knee pain. Arthroscopy for the knee is almost always a day stay procedure and is most commonly used for:
- Repair/ removal of torn meniscus/cartilage
- Removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage
- Reconstruction of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
- Trimming off torn pieces of articular cartilage
- Removal of inflamed synovial tissue
Knee Arthroscopy Post-Surgical Recovery
Length of Stay
You will likely go home a short time after your surgery. Arrange to have someone drive you home and stay with you for the first 24 hours.
Your surgeon will provide you with specific instructions relevant to your needs, but generally speaking this is what you can expect:
- The day of surgery you should plan to rest with your leg up and be sure to limit walking. Until you are able to walk comfortably be sure to stimulate circulation by performing leg raises, rotating your ankle and wiggle your toes.
- Unless told otherwise, bend your knee when you walk and do your best to walk ‘normally’. Don’t overdue it as overworking your knee will cause increased swelling and pain.
- You may find the use of a cane or crutches to be helpful following your surgery. Be sure to check with your doctor before using walk aids.
- The day after surgery you may do as much as your knee allows within the limits of pain and swelling. Increase your activity slowly. If the swelling and knee pain increases, rest with your leg raised and apply cold packs as described under the section labeled “Pain”.
- You may go up and down stairs but don’t push yourself during the first few days that follow your surgery. When you do go up stairs, lead with your unaffected leg. When you go down stairs you may find it easier to do so going sideways and leading with your affected leg. Going up and down stairs this way can help reduce stress knee which will be less painful.
- You may shower the day after your surgery but wait until you can comfortably for 10-15 minutes. Remove the elastic bandage to shower and rewrap when you are finished. Do not soak your knee in water until your sutures or paper tapes are removed as per doctor’s orders.
- Your doctor will provide instruction as to when you may return to work, drive or perform vigorous exercise.
- You should expect to have pain in and around your knee following surgery. Sometimes the doctor will put a local anesthetic inside the knee while doing surgery. The effects of this can help relieve discomfort for up to four hours.
- You will be given pain medication while you are in the hospital, either by mouth or by injection. When you go home you will be given a prescription for additional pain medication and may also be given an anti-inflammatory. If you feel unwell after taking medication as directed, contact your doctor.
- As your pain becomes less you may switch from a prescribed pain-killer to an over-the-counter substitute like Tylenol. Be sure to continue to follow the instructions on the bottle and ask your doctor if you are unsure about anything.
- You should regularly apply cold packs to your knee to help reduce pain and swelling. This is usually done in intervals of 15-20 minutes every hour while you are awake and for at least the first 24 hours following your surgery. A cold pack could be anything from a gel pack to a bag of frozen peas. Wrap anything you use as a cold pack in a thin towel before placing it on your knee. A cryotherapy unit and cuff may be recommended by your surgeon.
- Whenever your are sitting or laying down, raise your leg on some pillows making sure you keep your knee as straight as possible. Keeping your leg raised will help with pain and swelling.
- When lying down, make sure you are resting on your unaffected side only. Try placing pillows between your legs lengthwise to increase comfort.
- Do not remove the bulky dressing until you have been advised to do so by your doctor or nurse (usually no sooner then two days following your surgery)
- The incisions may ‘leak’ clear fluid tinged with blood for several days. Keep these areas clean and dry. You may change the dressings as needed by replacing soiled ones with small, clean gauze or bandages purchased from a pharmacy. Do not remove the paper tapes until you are told to do so even if they appear soiled.
- If you have non-dissolvable sutures they will be removed at your doctor’s office usually in seven days. You will be told when to come to have this done. You will also be told when to remove the paper tapes.
- If your knee is wrapped with an elastic bandage after surgery, continue to wrap your knee with it until the swelling goes away. Keep it snug but not tight, especially behind the knee as it can impede blood flow and cause your foot to swell. Rewrap the elastic bandage or adjust as you feel is required. If you do not know how to wrap a bandage, ask your nurse to show you or the person that will be taking you home how to do it before you leave our facility.
Your surgeon will provide you with specific post surgical instructions relevant to your needs to ensure a safe progression back to your regular duties.
Post Surgical Follow-Up Visit:
Typically two weeks following your surgery you will have a follow-up visit with your surgeon. If this has not already been pre-arranged prior to discharge, be sure to call shortly after returning home to arrange for a follow-up.
Post-Operative ACL Knee Surgery Information
Exercises: your surgeon will prescribe when to start physiotherapy; see exercise plan that follows. Work: Ask your surgeon about time frames for returning to work or engaging in sports.
Driving: check with your surgeon before driving again. The return to a safe level of strength varies individually, and may take significantly longer than four weeks. The guiding principle is that you must be able to operate your vehicle safely. You assume any liability for driving your vehicle if any problems occur.