Recovery After Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

Arthroscopic Knee SurgeryIn March’s blog we described the process involved with arthroscopic knee surgery, including what kinds of injuries/damage can be addressed with this minimally invasive surgery.

But what about afterwards? How soon can you get back to doing the stuff you like? Let’s get into that this month.

First 72 hours are key

There are some misconceptions about arthroscopic knee surgery. Although the recovery is much easier than open surgery, if the patient isn’t, well, patient it can take longer than many people think. We’ve all heard stories of people getting back out on the field or court within two or three weeks, but that’s not the case. At Urgent Orthopedic Specialists, we want you to get back to the sports or activities you love as much as you do, but you’ll get back more quickly if you take it slowly.

After you wake from general anesthesia, we’ll monitor you for a bit and then we’ll send you home. We’ll have your leg wrapped from mid-thigh all the way down to your foot with a compression bandage. You will be able to walk on it to get around, but that’s it at first. When you get home, you’ll hopefully have a cold machine to make icing your knee easier. You’ll need to ice continually with this over your bandages, if possible. That’s much easier with a cold machine than ice packs.

For 72 hours, you’ll need to be in bed with your knee elevated above the level of your heart. This is important to minimize the original swelling.

The rest of the first week

After the first three days, you can remove the bandages and take a shower. You leave the Steri-Strips on the three or four tiny incisions where the scope and small tools were inserted. You’ll want to keep icing and laying low for the rest of your first week. This is where patients get impatient and their swelling and pain lingers longer than it should have.

That means limit stairs. If you have to go up, step up with your good leg and pull your operated leg up after it. Reverse this on the way down but go step by step. No impact. You can now take short walks, but nothing more than maybe around the block.

One of our physical therapists will meet with you before you go into surgery and will give you four exercises that you need to do to prevent blood clots from forming and to keep your muscles somewhat strong. Depending on the degree of clean-up that was done in your knee, you probably won’t need actual physical therapy, but this can vary. Here are the exercises you’ll start with:

  • Pump your ankles— While sitting in bed, bend and straighten your ankles 30 times. Do this every hour. This is to prevent blood clots from forming.
  • Quad sets— Sitting up, tighten your thigh muscle, making your knee completely straight. This pushes your knee downward and tightens your thigh. Hold it for 3-5 seconds. Start with 12 reps and build up to 30.
  • Straight leg raises— Lying flat, bend your non-surgical leg fully, bringing your foot up toward your butt. Bring your toes to your nose focusing on your operated leg, making your leg straight and stiff (no knee bend). Slowly raise your leg to the height of your bent knee, making sure it is straight. Same reps as above.
  • Heel slides— Sit on the bed and bend your good knee at about a 90-degree angle. Now slide the heal of your repaired leg on the bed back toward you, flexing your repaired knee. You’ll have resistance quickly due to swelling. Flex this until you feel some resistance and repeat this 3-4 times. Then try and gain a little more flex. You’re working your way to full flexion.

We’ll usually see you for your follow-up after about one week. You’ll be able to return to light activity in 1-3 weeks, things like walking short distances. If you take it slow, you’ll be good to return to most physical activities in 6-8 weeks.

Do you have consistent knee pain? Call the team at Urgent Orthopedic Specialists, (432) 520-3020, let’s see what we can do to get rid of the pain.

Posted in: Arthroscopy

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