Down Time for Knee Surgery?
February 13, 2009 6:40 AM   Subscribe

What is/was your experience with knee arthroscopy (torn cartilage repair) and how long was your down time?

I saw an orthopedist yesterday and was tentatively diagnosed with torn cartilage in my right knee (he wants to confirm it with an MRI next week). When discussing potential arthroscopic surgery to correct it, the orthopod mentioned that there was no period of non-weight bearing. Only two days of crutches, then a week of 'a lot of pain', then two weeks of 'some pain'.

About twenty five years ago (Christ, I'm getting old), I had three arthroscopies previous to a reconstruction on my left knee. I seem to recall about three weeks of complete non-weight bearing each time, along with a whole lot of holy-fuck-this-hurts-level pain.

I mentioned this to a girlfriend of mine yesterday who had cartilage surgery a few years ago and she thought she had about two weeks of NWB, and major pain, too.

Is this surgeon delusional or has technology advanced that much in a years?
posted by dancinglamb to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm i have had an acl repair (the one where they use your tendon asa ligament) and arthroscopy surgery . the arthroscopy was to remove a piece of chipped bone. The arthroscopy i was told couldnt be on it for that day but was encouraged to actually walk on it the next day.

The acl repair was pure hell though.

I would guess cartlidge repair would be a little somewhere inbetween the two.
posted by majortom1981 at 6:57 AM on February 13, 2009

I had two menisucs tears repaired a few years ago. My knee was tender and swollen afterwards. It was very sore that night in bed, but was better in the morning. The next day I was supposed to get off my crutches and walk around a bit. I'd say I was relatively normal after a week, and about a month before I really trusted it in strenuous activity.
posted by sanka at 7:16 AM on February 13, 2009

Perhaps of interest - Arthroscopic Knee Surgery- No Better than Placebo? You can find the abstract of an earlier study in the NEJM here which suggests the same, with a list of links to later articles which reference this study (presumably both pro- and anti-). You'll need to look into it to see if this applies to you, but just FYI.
posted by Jakey at 7:17 AM on February 13, 2009

My dad had what sounds like the same surgery you're talking about. This was about two years ago (he would have been nearing 70 at the time) and he had it pretty easy, compared to my surgery 15-16 years ago. I was on crutches for five weeks and had physical therapy once a week. He was on crutches for two days then switched to a cane for a little less than two weeks and had a handful of physical therapy appointments. Medically speaking, things have come a long way.
posted by cooker girl at 7:32 AM on February 13, 2009

I had my left knee scoped ("bucket-handle" meniscus tear) in 1989 and my right knee (same exact procedure) in 1992. Both surgeries were out patient, crutches for a couple days, physical rehab right after that for a couple weeks and back to full activity within a month (although I don't play basketball anymore, I play all my other sports). I have never had further problems with cartilage. I do have torn ACLS in both knees which were traumatic injuries and unrelated to the arthros. Never had any pain that ibuprofen didn't fix.
posted by vito90 at 10:43 AM on February 13, 2009

I had very minor arthroscopic knee surgery to remove some "floating" cartilage about 5 years ago (aka not so much fixing anything but just cleaning up). "Only two days of crutches, then a week of 'a lot of pain', then two weeks of 'some pain'" ... matches my experience.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2009

Jakey's article is about a different type of knee surgery, not ACL repair. From what I know of the procedure what your surgeon is telling you is about right. The variables include surgeon skill, your natural inflammatory response and your tolerance for pain. These can vary how long you feel pain, but that part probably extends beyond the period of two weeks of some pain.
posted by caddis at 12:40 PM on February 13, 2009

The acl repair was pure hell though.

Yeah, I concur. That's partially what my reconstruction was on my left knee. I also tore the patella tracking ligaments and cartilage.

I was just really shocked that this guy was so emphatic about how quickly the turnaround time was on arthroscopy work. He said that you could do non-impact exercise immediately. I told my trainer that yesterday and he just about fell over. Maybe he's talking PT and not actual exercise, as in, go to the gym and work out??

Jakey, interesting link, but I've recently lost 80lbs and I'm well below the 50-90yo age group (I'm 38). I'm pretty sure I don't fit the criteria for osteoarthritis versus actual meniscii tearing. I do agree, however, that it's over-diagnosed and am pretty loathe to consider surgical correction. I just don't know that going down the path of corticosteroids and PT is the answer, either, kwim?
posted by dancinglamb at 3:19 PM on February 13, 2009

I've no dog in this fight. IANAD and I am also not a doctor hater. I just think that in the modern world, doctors don't always have enough time on a one-to-one basis with their patients to fully explore all the options, so I never think it hurts to have enough background to ask a question or two. If your doc answers them to your satisfaction, then I would always advocate following their advice.
posted by Jakey at 4:22 PM on February 13, 2009

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