Knee arthroscopy - discharge

You had knee arthroscopy, which is surgery to check for problems in your knee. You may have been checked for:

  • A torn meniscus. Meniscus is cartilage that cushions the space between the bones in the knee. Surgery is done to repair or remove it.
  • A torn or damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Inflamed or damaged lining of the joint. This lining is called the synovium.
  • Misalignment of the kneecap (patella). Misalignment puts the kneecap out of position.
  • Small pieces of broken cartilage in the knee joint
  • Removal of Baker's cyst -- a swelling behind the knee that is filled with fluid. Sometimes this occurs when there is inflammation (soreness and pain) from other causes, like arthritis.
  • Some fractures of the bones of the knee

What to Expect at Home

Most people who have knee arthroscopy will be able to start putting weight on their knee in the first week after surgery. They can do most of their normal activities in the first month after surgery.

Check with your doctor about any activites you should limit. You may also need to be on crutches for a while.

In more complicated knee arthroscopy procedures, you may not be able to walk for several weeks. You may need to use crutches or a knee brace. Full recovery may take several months to a year.


Pain is normal after knee arthroscopy. It should ease up over time.

Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicine. Get it filled when you go home so that you have it when you need it. Take your pain medicine when you start having pain. Waiting too long to take it will allow your pain to get more severe than it should.

You may have received a nerve block, so you don't feel pain during and after surgery. Make sure you take your pain medicine. The nerve block will wear off, and pain can return very quickly.

Taking ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory medicine may also help. Ask your doctor what other medicines are safe to take with your pain medicine.

Do NOT drive if you are taking narcotic pain medicine. This medicine may make you too sleepy to drive safely.


Your doctor will ask you to rest when you first go home. Keep your leg propped up on 1 or 2 pillows. Place the pillows under your foot or calf muscle. This helps control swelling in your knee.

For most procedures, you may start to put weight on your leg soon after surgery, unless your doctor or nurse tells you NOT to.

  • Start slowly by walking around the house. You may need to use crutches at first to help you keep from putting too much weight on your knee.
  • Try not to stand for long periods.
  • Do any exercises you doctor taught you.
  • Do not jog, swim, do aerobics, or ride a bicycle until your doctor tells you it is okay.

Ask your doctor when you can return to work or drive again.

See also: ACL reconstruction - discharge

Wound Care

You will go home with a dressing and an ace bandage around your knee. Do not remove these until your doctor or nurse says it is okay. Until then, keep them clean and dry.

Place an ice pack on your knee 4 to 6 times a day for the first 2 or 3 days. Be careful not to get the dressing wet. Do NOT use a heating pad.

If you need to change your dressing for any reason, put the ace bandage back on over the new dressing. Keep the ace bandage on until your doctor or nurse tells you it is okay to remove it. Wrap the ace bandage loosely around your knee. Start from the calf and wrap it around your leg and knee. Do NOT wrap it too tightly.

When you shower, wrap your leg in plastic to keep it from getting wet until your stitches or tape (Steri-Strips) have been removed. After that, you may get the incisions wet when you shower. Be sure to dry the area well.

See also: Surgical wound care

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if:

  • Blood is soaking through your dressing, and the bleeding does not stop when you put pressure on the area
  • Pain does not go away after you take pain medicine
  • You have swelling or pain in your calf muscle
  • Your foot or toes look darker than normal or are cool to the touch
  • You have redness, pain, swelling, or yellowish discharge from your incisions
  • You have a temperature higher than 101 °F

Alternate Names

Knee scope - arthroscopic lateral retinacular release - discharge; Synovectomy - discharge; Patellar debridement - discharge; Meniscus repair - discharge; Lateral release - discharge; Collateral ligament repair – discharge; Knee surgery - discharge


Phillips BB. Arthroscopy of the lower extremity. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 48.

Update Date: 12/20/2012

Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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