Skip to Content

Operative Knee Arthroscopy


Knee arthroscopy (AHR-thros-ka-pee) is surgery to look inside your knee joint. It is done by using an instrument called an arthroscope (AHR-throh-skohp). This scope is a long tube with a magnifying glass and a light on the end. You may stay in the hospital for a day after surgery or you may be able to go home the same day. Operative (OP-er-ah-tiv) knee arthroscopy is done to find and fix problems inside your knee. Some of the surgeries done through operative knee arthroscopy are meniscal (me-NIS-kl) repair or meniscectomy (men-ih-SEK-toh-mee). Some other surgeries are (an-TEER-ee-ohr) cruciate (CROO-shee-ayt) ligament (ACL) repair, lateral release, and patellar (pah-TEL-er) debridement (da-BREED-ment).

Picture of a normal knee



  • Keep a written list of the medicines you take and when and why you take them. Bring the list of your medicines or medicine bottles when you see your caregivers. Ask your caregiver for information about your medicine. Do not take any medicines, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, or food supplements without first talking to caregivers.
  • Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. Do not quit taking your medicine until you discuss it with your caregiver. If you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use heavy equipment.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

How can I take care of myself at home?

  • Put an ice pack on your knee. Put crushed ice in a plastic bag or use a bag of frozen corn or peas. Cover it with a towel. Put this on your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every hour. Do this as long as you need it for the first 24 to 48 hours, or longer if needed. Do not sleep on the ice pack because you can get frostbite.
  • Keep your dressing dry and clean.
    • Ask your caregiver when you may remove the elastic wrap bandage and dressing. When you are allowed to bathe or shower, carefully wash the stitches with soap and water. Afterwards put on a clean, new bandage. Change your bandage any time it gets wet or dirty. If you cannot change the bandage by yourself, ask someone else to help you change it.
    • Wrap a plastic bag around your bandage when you shower. Carefully tape the bag above and below the bandages or brace so water cannot leak onto them. Keep your leg away from the spray of water if possible.
  • Keep your knee raised above the level of your heart. Stay off your feet as much as possible for 24 to 48 hours. Keep your injured leg raised on two pillows whenever possible for the next two days. Move your legs often while resting in bed to help avoid getting blood clots.
  • Wear pressure stockings until you are walking more. This will help decrease swelling in your legs until you are walking more. Ask your caregiver which type of support socks are best to wear.
  • Wear the brace your caregiver gave to you. You may need to wear a brace or elastic wrap bandage. This keeps your knee from moving too much while it heals. Ask your caregiver how many days you should wear your brace after surgery. You may also need to use the brace when doing sports activities. Ask your caregiver how long you should wear the brace when doing sports activities.
    • You may remove the brace each day to bathe. Put your brace back on as soon as possible.
    • You can loosen or tighten the brace or elastic wrap bandage to make it comfortable. It should be tight enough for you to feel support. It should not be so tight that it causes your toes to tingle or lose feeling. If you are wearing an elastic bandage, take it off and rewrap it once a day.
    • Move your toes and foot several times an hour to prevent joint stiffness.
  • Use the crutches your caregiver gave to you. You may be given crutches or a cane to use until you can put weight on the knee (stand using that leg) without pain. Ask caregivers how long you should use the crutches and how to use crutches correctly.
  • Go to physical therapy. Your caregiver may want you to go to physical (FIZ-i-kal) therapy. A physical therapist will help you with special exercises. These exercises help make your knee stronger and move better.
  • Ask your caregiver when you can start exercising. Avoid heavy exercise such as jogging or bicycling right after surgery. Talk to your caregiver before you start exercising. It is best to start slowly and do more as you get stronger. Together you can plan an exercise program.
  • Driving: Do not drive if you are still taking narcotic (nahr-KOT-ic) pain medicine.
  • Ask your caregiver when you can return to work or school.


  • The area around your stitches is swollen, red, or has pus coming from it. This may mean that you have an infection (in-FEK-shun).
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • You have more pain in your knee or trouble moving around.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • You have questions or concerns about your knee problem, surgery, or medicine.


  • You have a fever.
  • You fall or injure your knee.
  • Your leg or toes lose feeling, tingle, feel cool to touch, or look blue or pale.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Operative Knee Arthroscopy (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes