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Operative Knee Arthroscopy


What you need to know about an operative knee arthroscopy:

An operative knee arthroscopy is a surgery to fix damage or disease in your knee joint. An arthroscope is a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end.

How to prepare for your surgery:

  • You may need an x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI before your surgery. These tests will take pictures of your joint and help your healthcare provider plan for your surgery. Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you for at least 24 hours after surgery.
  • Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your surgery. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery. You may be given an antibiotic through your IV to help prevent a bacterial infection.

What will happen during your surgery:

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during surgery, but you should not feel any pain. Another option is regional anesthesia. Regional anesthesia will keep you numb from the waist down during your procedure. Your healthcare provider will discuss which option is best for you.
  • Your healthcare provider will make small incisions on your knee. He or she will rinse out the fluid that is in your knee. This will help him or her see your joint better. The arthroscope will be inserted into one of the incisions. The picture from the scope will be seen on a monitor. Your healthcare provider will insert small tools into the other incisions. These tools will be used to fix the damage in your knee.

What will happen after your surgery:

Your healthcare provider will use stitches to close the incisions. A compression bandage will be placed on your knee to help decrease swelling. You may need crutches or other devices to keep from putting full weight on your knee. You will have some pain. You should start to have less pain within a few days.

Risks of an operative knee arthroscopy:

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. You may have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. You may have pain or knee stiffness. Blood may collect around your knee. You may need to have more knee surgery in the future. You may get a blood clot in your leg. The clot may cause life-threatening problems.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • Your leg feels numb or cold and looks pale.
  • Your leg is larger than normal, red and painful.
  • You cannot move your leg or foot.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your incision site is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have severe pain in your knee even after you take pain medicine.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Knee bandage care:

Keep the bandage on your knee clean and dry. Do not remove your bandage until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay to take a shower or bath. He or she will tell you when to change the bandage.


  • Apply ice on your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your knee. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Elevate your knee above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably. Do not put pillows directly behind your knee.
  • Wear your knee brace and pressure stockings as directed. Your brace will prevent your knee from moving and may help it heal. Pressure stockings put pressure on your legs to help blood flow and prevent clots.
  • Keep weight off of your knee as directed. Use crutches or other assistive devices to keep pressure off of your knee. Ask your healthcare provider how long you need to keep weight off of your knee.
  • Do not drive for 1 to 3 weeks or as directed. Your ability to drive may depend on the knee that was operated on the type of car you drive. It may also depend on your pain level and when you stop taking pain medicine. Do not drive while you are taking prescription pain medicine.
  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. Ask your healthcare provider when you should start physical therapy.

Follow up with your orthopedist as directed:

You may need x-rays or other tests to show improvement. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

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