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Knee Arthroscopy Post-operative Instructions

  • Wound dressing

    • After arthroscopy the wound is covered with gauze or ace wraps.
    • These should generally be left in place for 24 hours.
    • Due to the large amount of fluid used during the arthroscopy, it is normal to see some bloody drainage on the dressings.
    • If bright red blood persists despite elevation and application of ice, please call the doctor.
    • The dressing should be removed and wounds covered with adhesive bandages on the first or second day after surgery.
    • Do not remove the paper strips or cut any of the visible sutures.
    • Reapply the ace wrap for 5-7 days to control swelling. Wounds should be kept dry for 48 hours.
    • Unless otherwise instructed, the 5th day after surgery, the wound may be exposed in the shower, taking care not to scrub the area. The wound should not be submerged in a bathtub or pool until three weeks after the surgery.
  • Icing

    • Icing is very important for the first 5-7 days after surgery
    • While the post-op dressing is in place, application of ice should be continuous.
    • Once the dressing is removed on the first or second day, ice is applied for 20-minute periods, 3-4 times per day.
    • Care must be taken with ice to avoid frostbite.
  • Mobility

    • Full weight bearing is advised unless otherwise instructed at the time of surgery.
    • Crutches or a cane may be necessary to assist walking. These aids are used to help with balance but not to remove weight from the leg.
    • Leg elevation for the first 72 hours is also encouraged to minimize swelling.
    • Range of motion exercises, straight leg raises, and ankle pumps are encouraged for the first 7 days after surgery and should be started the evening of surgery.
    • While exercise is important, don't over-do it. Common sense is the rule.
  • Precautions

    • The anesthetic drugs used during your surgery may cause nausea for the first 24 hours.
    • If nausea occurs, drink only clear liquids (i.e., Sprite or 7-up). The only solid foods that should be eaten are dry crackers or toast.
    • If nausea and vomiting become severe or the patient shows sign of dehydration (lack of urination) please call the doctor or the surgery center.
    • A low-grade fever (100.5) is not uncommon in the first 24 hours but is unusual beyond. Please call the doctor with any temperature over 101.0 degrees.
    • If a spinal anesthetic was used, patients may suffer a spinal headache. Please call the surgery center should this occur and ibuprofen or your pain medication does not relieve the pain.
    • You may take a baby aspirin (81 mg) or alternatively a regular aspirin tablet (325 mg) until you are back to your normal level of activities, as this may lower the risk of a blood clot developing after surgery.
    • Should severe calf pain or significant swelling of calf and ankle occur, please call the doctor.
  • Pain medication

    • Local anesthetics (i.e., Novocaine) are put into the joint during surgery.
    • It is not uncommon for patients to encounter more pain on the first or second day after surgery. This is the time when swelling peaks.
    • Using the pain medication as directed will help control pain with little risk of complication.
    • Taking pain medication before bedtime will assist in sleeping.
    • It is important not to drink alcoholic beverages or drive while taking narcotic medication.
    • If you were prescribed narcotic medication (i.e. vicodin, hydrocodone, darvocet) you can supplement those medications with 200 mg or 400 mg of ibuprofen every 4-6 hours.
    • You should resume your normal medications for other conditions the day after surgery.
    • We have no specific diet restrictions after surgery but extensive use of narcotics can lead to constipation. High fiber diet, lots of fluids, and muscle activity can prevent this occurrence.
  • Activities

    • Most patients are able to drive if surgery does not involve their right leg as soon as they stop taking narcotic pain medication.
    • Driving while under the influence of narcotic pain medication is dangerous, illegal and greatly discouraged in all patients.
    • Returning to school or work also depends on the degree of postoperative pain and the demands of your job or classes.
    • Pain is generally a good guide as to whether you can return or not.
  • Follow-up care & contact information

    The doctor will need to reexamine you 7-10 days after routine knee arthroscopy and within 48 hours for patients undergoing ACL surgery. Please call the number at the top of the page to schedule a follow-up appointment. 

    If unexpected problems, emergencies or other issues occur and you need to talk to the doctor, contact us. After hours our answering service will route your call to a physician who will be able to advise you concerning your problem. 

    Check with your doctor to make sure these instructions apply to your case.