You’re scheduled for surgery, have had your preoperative appointment with your orthopedic surgeon and have done all of your labs and preoperative testing. Have you asked all your questions? Do you understand what knee arthroscopic surgery is, what you should expect and how long your recovery should be?
Arthroscopic knee surgery allows your surgeon to both diagnose and treat problems in your knee. Injuries such as a torn meniscus, torn cartilage, torn ligaments and fractures can be repaired by your orthopedic surgeon, who is able to inspect the inside of your knee using the camera attached to the instruments, without making large incisions. This type of surgery usually requires about six weeks of recovery, but there are things that you can do to ensure that you are back on your feet without any delays or unexpected problems.
Things to Do Before Surgery
Good two-way communication between you and your surgeon is a key ingredient to a speedy recovery after knee arthroscopy. Make sure you let your surgeon know all of your medical conditions so that any necessary adjustments can be made to your plan of care. To ensure that you are in good health before surgery, you will need to see your primary care provider for a physical exam before surgery. This exam may, or may not, include lab work, and EKG, a chest x-ray, and other tests related to your specific medical conditions. It is also very important to give your surgeon an accurate list of any medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements that you take regularly. Some of these things may have to be stopped days, or even weeks before surgery.
Some surgeons may also give you a pre-operative plan that includes gentle strengthening exercises and/or stretching exercises. Make sure you understand your plan, and then follow it. These recommendations are given to you to improve your recovery. If you smoke, quitting before surgery will go a long way to improve your recovery time and prevent complications. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit. Additionally, if you are overweight or obese, losing weight before surgery will help to put less stress on your knee after surgery. It is also a good idea to prepare your home for your recovery before your surgery, by removing tripping hazards like throw rugs, electrical cords and clutter, and arranging your space to reduce the need to go up and down stairs. If you have prescriptions from your orthopedic surgeon, go ahead and fill them before surgery so you have them readily at hand when you need them.
Generally, it will take you about 6 weeks to recover from knee arthroscopy, but your orthopedic surgeon will let you know what you should expect in your individual case. After surgery, you will feel tired for a few days, and your knee may be swollen and sore. Try to rest and get enough sleep. Keeping your leg elevated with pillows and applying ice as prescribed in your postoperative instructions will help with the swelling and discomfort. Make sure you understand what your surgeon expects of you immediately after surgery. If you are advised to use crutches, make sure you understand how to use them correctly and then be sure to use them. Only increase your activity based on what your surgeon advises, wear any braces that are given to you and follow your exercise plan. You may also expect to see a physical therapist to complete your rehabilitation. Exercise is extremely important in restoring strength and full range of motion to your knee. Your postoperative care plan is designed to help you recover as quickly as possible and to prevent complications, so following it is very important in speeding your recovery.
Be sure to take any medications prescribed to you, including antibiotics and pain killers, as directed, and don’t take any over-the-counter medications unless you clear it with your surgeon. Eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water will promote healing after surgery. You should not drink alcohol, and you should definitely not smoke. You will be told when you can take bandages off and/or get your incisions wet, but you won’t be able to take a bath or soak your knee until your surgeon says it’s ok. And finally, it is very important to make, and keep, any recommended follow up appointments with your orthopedic surgeon.
When to Call Your Surgeon
Following your postoperative plan and living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to a speedy recovery after arthroscopic knee surgery. However, even in the best of situations, problems can occur. What is important is being able to recognize things that may hamper recovery, and then communicating with your doctor right away. If you experience a fever, severe or increasing swelling or redness of your leg, increased or funny smelling drainage from your incision, numbness or tingling, color or temperature changes in your foot, call your doctor right away. Additionally, if you experience pain in your calf, thigh or groin, nausea and vomiting that you can’t get to stop, loose stitches or an opening incision, bandages soaked in blood, or pain that is getting worse instead of better, don’t wait to call your surgeon. The quicker any problems are addressed, the faster they can be resolved.
If you are experiencing knee pain, Dr. Brett Gilbert is a highly skilled orthopedic surgeon who can diagnose and treat your injury. If you need arthroscopic surgery, he and his friendly team will be here to guide you to a speedy recovery. To seek the expert advice of Dr. Brett Gilbert for your knee pain, or to address any other orthopedic concerns, contact us today by calling us at (919) 788-8797 or request an appointment online, and work to start living pain-free once again.