Something I hear commonly in the workers’ compensation environment is “my boss said he had the same operation and was back at work after a week”. Apart from being highly inflammatory, the statement in itself is probably not true. “Knee arthroscopy” is a very generic term for any operation that is done with keyhole cuts on the knee. Under this heading, there are a wide range of procedures that can be done arthroscopically and also a wide number of conditions that can be treated.
There are other reversible factors that do impact upon the timelines for recovery including the amount of bleeding and swelling in the knee. Minor postoperative complications such as deep vein thrombosis or inflammation of the joint (synovitis) will prolong recovery. Muscle wasting that occurs after surgery can cause secondary problems such as kneecap pain or weakness and giving way. This may be correctable with rehabilitation but might take weeks or months. So the answer to what is “normal” recovery for a knee arthroscopy is that there is a wide range of recovery timeframes depending on the underlying problem. It is not necessarily possible to accurately predict before surgery what the timelines might be.
In general terms, you should be pottering about the house for the first few days after an arthroscopy, then starting some walking for exercise until your stitches come out at one week. At that stage it is possible to start in the pool doing some hydrotherapy and progress on to an exercise bike and low impact gym equipment. A physiotherapist can help with a strengthening program although it is not always necessary. By six weeks you should be doing light impact activity and by three months, you should be approaching full recovery. Occasionally people will see improvements for up to six months.
Remember, your knee is your knee, and it is almost certainly not exactly the same as the boss’ knee.
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Dr David Colvin consults at:
Western Orthopaedic Clinic
- These rooms are part of St John of God Subiaco Hospital.
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Dr David Colvin operates at:
St John of God Subiaco Hospital
12 Salvado Rd,
Subiaco WA 6008