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Recovery

How long it takes to recover after an arthroscopy will depend on your general health, the joint involved and the specific procedure you had.

Some people feel better after a few days, while others may not be back to normal for several months.

After the operation

After your arthroscopy, you'll be taken to a room to recover from the effects of the general anaesthetic, if it was used during the procedure.

You may have some pain in the affected joint. If you do, tell a member of the hospital staff, who will be able to give you painkillers.

Most people who have an arthroscopy are able to leave hospital on the day of surgery or the following morning. Before leaving, you may see a physiotherapist who will discuss exercises for you to do at home.

Depending on your procedure, you may need a temporary sling, splint or crutches to support and protect the joint while you recover. Special pumps or compression bandages are sometimes used to help improve blood flow.

Recovery advice

You'll probably feel tired and lightheaded after having a general anaesthetic, so you'll need to ask someone to drive you home and stay with you for the first 24 hours. Most people recover from the effects of the anaesthetic within 48 hours.

If advised to do so, raise the joint and use ice packs to help reduce the swelling when you get home. You should also do any joint exercises that have been recommended for you.

Keep dressings as dry as possible by covering them with a plastic bag when having a bath or shower. If your dressings get wet or fall off, they'll need to be replaced. Dressings can usually be removed after 5 to 10 days.

Your wounds should start to heal within a few days. If non-dissolvable stitches were used, they'll need to be removed after 1 to 2 weeks. This can usually be done by a practice nurse at your local GP surgery.

You'll have a follow-up appointment a few weeks after the operation to discuss the results of the surgery, your recovery, and any additional treatment you may need.

Returning to normal activities

Your surgeon or care team will let you know how long it's likely to take for you to fully recover and what activities you should avoid until you're feeling better.

You'll probably need a week or two off work, but this varies from person to person. It will depend on how quickly you recover and whether your job involves strenuous activity that could damage the joint.

You can drive when you no longer have pain and have enough strength to safely do an emergency stop. This may not be for a few weeks or several months after surgery. Your surgeon can give you more specific advice.

They'll also be able to advise you about how long it will be before you can do strenuous physical activities, such as sport and heavy lifting. For many people, this is around 6 weeks after surgery, but sometimes it may not be for several months.

When to get medical advice

Contact a GP or the clinic where you had your operation if you have:

  • a high temperature
  • severe or increasing pain
  • severe or increasing redness or swelling
  • discoloured or foul-smelling discharge from your wounds
  • numbness or tingling

These could be symptoms of a complication of surgery, such as an infection or nerve damage.