If you’re planning to have knee surgery, what you can expect will depend on the type of surgery being done.

If you’re having a smaller procedure such as an ACL repair, chances are good that the surgery may be done arthroscopically, a minimally invasive technique that can spare muscles and other healthy tissue in the area, reducing post-operative pain, scarring, and recovery time. If it is a more complicated procedure such as a complete knee replacement, a more traditional “open” surgical technique may be necessary.

No matter what type of knee surgery you will undergo, your orthopedic surgeon can answer any questions you may have about the procedure and what to expect afterward.

Some of the most common types of knee surgeries include:

  • Arthroscopic Knee Surgery. Using this minimally invasive method, your doctor will make a few small incisions at the knee to insert the scope to be able to view the internal structures of the knee and guide miniature surgical instruments to remove or repair damaged cartilage, bone, or other tissue at the knee joint. Recovery from arthroscopic surgery is relatively quick and typically patients can resume light desk work and gentle activity within a few days. Driving can be resumed between 1-3 weeks and more strenuous activity a few weeks after that. Your orthopedic surgeon will likely recommend physical therapy to help with the rehabilitation process.
  • ACL Repair. Surgery to repair a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee is most often performed arthroscopically. During this procedure, your surgeon will remove the torn ligament and replace it with a graft, a piece of tendon from either the patient or a cadaver, which is then secured using surgical screws or other fixation devices. This serves as a scaffold from which new ligament tissue can grow. Recovery from an ACL repair can take months. Physical therapy is definitely advised after this type of surgery to assist with regaining mobility and strength.
  • Complete Knee Replacement. Sometimes, a complete knee replacement is necessary to relieve a patient’s pain and restore mobility. There are a wide variety of replacement prostheses available that can be used based upon factors like a patient’s age, weight, activity level, knee size, shape, and overall health. Recovery from a full knee replacement will include physical therapy and require assistive devices such as crutches or a walker for a month or so after the surgery. Driving and the performance of light household chores can usually be resumed 3-6 weeks following surgery, with a full recovery taking 4-5 months.

Because your knee bears the full weight of your body, any type of knee surgery will result in some downtime for recovery, plus the need for assistance devices when walking.