Knee Surgery FAQs

What is a Knee Arthroscopy?
Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive, out-patient, procedure which allows the surgeon to visualize the inside of the knee joint and repair, reconstruct or resect damaged tissue. Two or three small incisions are made about the knee and a small fiberoptic camera is inserted into joint. The joint is distended with sterile water to allow better navigation and visibility.

How long does the surgical procedure take, and am I asleep?
The length of the procedure varies. The surgical time for a meniscal tear, for example, is 15- 20 minutes. A more extensive reconstructive procedure, like an ACL reconstruction, takes about 75 minutes. The incisions are numbed with a local anesthetic before the procedure, but Dr. Diaz does not inject the joint with anesthetic. Intravenous sedation is administered so you can relax during the procedure.

What is the recovery time?
There is a high degree of variability in recovery times. Some patients are able to return to regular activities within 1-2 weeks, but most require roughly 4 weeks before they can resume full activities – including running – comfortably. The recovery depends on the particular procedure performed, the general fitness of the patient, and the amount of underlying arthritis in the knee. A younger, fit patient with an isolated meniscus tear will often fully recover within 2 weeks, while a heavier patient with a tear and arthritis may take longer. For most patients, immediate weightbearing without crutches is permitted on the first day after surgery.

Will I have stitches and when do they come out?
Typically, you will have 2-3 simple sutures which are removed 10 days after surgery by Dr. Diaz in the office.

When can I shower?
After meniscus surgery, you can shower 48 hours after your surgery. Incisions should be cleaned with simple soap and water. Do not apply ointments, such as Bacitracin, to your incisions. Cover the incisions with bandaids to prevent the sutures from catching on your pants. Do not immerse your incisions under water (do not take a bath).

When can I drive?
You can drive as soon as you feel comfortable and have good control of your leg and quadriceps muscle. You should not drive if you are still taking pain pills/narcotics. If you drive a standard transmission vehicle and had surgery on your left knee, you should wait a few days before driving to avoid causing more pain from operating the clutch. If you need to drive long distances within two weeks after your surgery, you should take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, and walk for 10 minutes per hour.

When can I return to work?
This depends on your profession. Typically, if your work is sedentary you may be able to return within a few days. If your work is more rigorous, you may require 3-4 weeks before you return to full duty. Your physician will help you determine an appropriate return-to-work date, and will also provide any needed paperwork.

When can I travel?
You may travel as soon as you feel comfortable, but it is recommended that long trips be avoided for two weeks after surgery. If a long trip is unavoidable in the early post-operative period, we recommend that you get up to stretch or walk for at least 10 minutes per hour.

What are some of the possible complications of surgery?
Generally, the complication rate for arthroscopic knee surgery is very low. In Dr. Diaz’s practice, the risk of infection or blood clot after routine knee arthroscopy is less than 0.01%. Some patients can have residual pain in their knee after surgery. In most cases, this can be attributed to underlying arthritis. Dr Diaz will review your intra-operative findings after surgery so you have a clear understanding of the overall health of your knee. It is important to understand that the rate and nature of complications varies from one procedure to the next, and one patient to the next.

What do I need to do to prepare for surgery?
Our staff will schedule the surgery and obtain insurance approval. If you are over the age of 50, or have significant health conditions, you may require an EKG and/or chest x-ray. You may also need to see your internist or family doctor to obtain a Letter of Medical Clearance. The day before surgery, the Surgery Center staff will contact you with instructions. You may not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery.