Recovery from Arthroscopic Knee Repair Surgery

Recovery times vary depending on each person’s circumstance. Age, injury, health status and the ability and commitment to follow through with physical therapy will all impact healing time. However, it is important to understand that it may take many months to feel better. Arthroscopic knee repair in minimally invasive surgery uses local or spinal anesthesia, small incisions and offers less bleeding with faster healing times and less damage to soft tissue. Arthroscopy is often an outpatient procedure. ACL reconstruction and meniscus tear repairs are often done together, arthroscopically. The orthopedic specialists at Orthopedic Specialists North County are experts in arthroscopic knee procedures.

Arthroscopic ACL Ligament Reconstruction

On average full recovery from ACL reconstruction is 6-9 months for healthy, active patients. Surgical healing takes 6-8 weeks. A rehabilitation program to restore range of motion, strengthen muscles and regain balance will be part of your recovery. Patents can expect swelling and stiffness.

Patients go home immediately after surgery with crutches and a brace, plus a prescription for pain medication. Medication may be needed for 2-3 weeks. Rehabilitation begins within a week of surgery.

Crutches will be used until the patient can walk without a limp on the repaired knee, which takes about 2 weeks after surgery. The knee will be swollen for 2-3 months. Patients will be instructed on the use of ice to reduce swelling.

If the meniscus is also torn, and repaired at the same time, crutches will be needed for longer period. Total recovery time for an ACL reconstruction with meniscus repair is 12-16 weeks, and it varies with each individual.

Patients may drive after pain medication, but when the right knee is affected, the patient must wait for 4-6 weeks before resuming driving.

If the patient has a desk job, they may be able to return 7days after surgery. However, if their job requires lots of standing, the patient should wait to return until 4-6 weeks after surgery.

Resumption of sports will depend on the type of repair and your surgeon will determine when you can resume sports.

Arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus (meniscectomy)

Arthroscopic surgery to remove all or part of the torn meniscus, is a common surgery. Arthroscopic surgery is outpatient same day surgery with local or regional anesthetic.

An uncomplicated meniscectomy will resolve most of the pain fairly quickly, but swelling and stiffness take time to resolve. It may take 4-5 months for full healing. The patient should be able to bear weight on the knee while standing or walking, immediately after surgery. Crutches will be necessary for 2-7 days after surgery.  Rehabilitation to gain full ROM should occur within 1-2 weeks. Heavy work or sports may be restricted for the first 4-6 weeks.

Complicated arthroscopic repair of a meniscus tear requires that the patient’s knee be completely immobilized for 2 weeks after surgery. Followed by 2 weeks of limited motion before resuming daily activities. Physical therapy starts right after surgery. The patient should be able to bear weight on the knee while standing or walking, immediately after surgery with a brace.

The patient is expected to walk with crutches for 4-6 weeks after surgery. Rehabilitation is intended to control pan and swelling, achieve maximum range of motion and full load walking. Patients with a low impact job can return to work 1-2 weeks after surgery, drive after 4-6 weeks, and return to heavy work or sports 3-6 months after surgery.

Arthroscopic repair of articular cartilage injury

Articular cartilage is the cartilage at the end of the bones. Damage can occur from trauma or normal wear and tear.  Arthroscopy is used to remove loose pieces of cartilage. A microfracture procedure makes tiny holes in the bone marrow of the damaged cartilage to generate new cartilage.

After surgery the joint must be protected while the cartilage heals. No weight bearing is permitted for the first few weeks after surgery. Physical therapy to restore mobility may include continuous passive movement therapy which moves the joint through ROM constantly. Rehabilitation is focused on strengthening the joint and muscles.

Patellar Tendon Tears

The patellar tendon attaches to muscles in the knee to help you straighten your leg. Small tears can impair quality of life, and cause difficulty walking, but don’t generally require surgery. Rather the patient will wear a brace and do physical therapy for 3-6 weeks while the tendon heals.

Surgical options are arthroscopic surgery or full open surgery. Larger tears and ruptures are disabling injuries and usually require open surgery to regain full knee function.

Surgery may outpatient procedure or a short hospital stay, with a spinal anesthetic, or general anesthesia. Rehab starts on the operating room table. Immediately after surgery the patient will need pain management and applications of ice to reduce swelling. 2 weeks after surgery the sutures or staples will be removed.

The patient will have a long brace or knee immobilizer that runs from the thigh to mid-calf to keep the leg immobile for 2-4 weeks; so crutches are needed. Physical therapy to restore mobility including continuous passive movement therapy which moves the joint through ROM constantly. Rehabilitation is focused on strengthening the joint and muscles.

No weight bearing for 2 weeks. Then toe touching with crutches. At 2-6 weeks the patient can bear about 25-50% of their weight. Exercises to help you handle full body weight. Driving if surgery on left leg if auto transmission and no pain meds.

At about 4-6 weeks, walking without crutches, but still wearing brace. More intensive physical therapy begins. By 12 weeks walking without a brace. If surgery on the right knee, drive with auto transmission when brace comes off. Physical therapy will be prescribed based on the individual’s need, medical condition and type of tear and of surgical repair. Full recovery can take 6-12 months.

Patients are wise to consult with Orthopedic Specialists of North County in San Diego, for the best orthopedic care available.


"The entire team at OSNC is great, very professional and took the time to put me at ease. And I only have praise for the Dr. Erik Stark, a wonderful doctor who never disappoints!" Patient of Dr. Erik Stark
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