If You Have Surgery for a Torn Meniscus: What to Expect
What procedure will be performed?
It is likely that you will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery, in which the surgeon shaves or cuts away flaps or tears on the meniscus, and may suture parts of meniscus back together. You will be under general anesthetic. The surgeon makes three very tiny incisions, and uses a “scope” or arthroscopic camera, inserted into the knee, to view the meniscus during the surgery. These operations are considered minor, and you are likely to be able to go home from the hospital on the same day.
Arthroscopic knee surgery can cost from $3,000 to $20,000. If you have limited health insurance or are planning to self-pay, it can be a good idea to ask the doctor, or call the hospital to ask in advance about costs of the surgery. If you are willing to pay cash up front because you are self-paying, your hospital may even give you a discount.
What to expect at the hospital
You will not be allowed to eat or drink anything on the day of the surgery. You will be asked to report to the hospital in the morning and will move through a series of checkups and waiting rooms.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Remember, surgery costs thousands of dollars, so you might as well take an active approach and get better value for your healthcare dollars.
You may be asked a lot of questions, and may even be required to answer the same questions several times. Try to relax and take things lightly, as it won’t make things any better to get frustrated and stressed. You will also be asked to provide any medication allergy information for your anesthetist and nurses, and to confirm that you haven’t had anything to eat or drink.
You will likely be given a gas to make you fall asleep, and then an IV for the anesthetic.
The next thing you know, you will be awakened in a recovery room. You may or may not experience some pain at this point, and you might feel very thirsty. Nurses will make sure that your vital signs are OK, but usually are not yet allowed to give you water. Your knee will be bandaged, so you won’t be able to see what happened.
The doctor will talk with you and whoever you brought with you about what she found, and may show you pictures of the inside of your knee from the arthroscopy. You will have a chance to ask hospital staff any questions you might have.
Questions to ask:
- What should I plan to do for pain management? How long should I take these prescriptions?
- What restrictions are there on my movement? How long should I follow these restrictions?
- When will you see me for a follow up appointment?
- What is the direct number I can call if I have any problems or issues arise in the next few days? What is your dedicated nurse’s direct line?
- Will I be doing physical therapy?
- Is there anything I should know about how to properly use crutches?
- How long do I need to keep this bandage on? What do I need to do to take care of the wound?
Tips for Recovery
If you do have surgery, you can prevent infection at the site of the surgery by using an anti-bacterial oil such as DoTerra “OnGuard” as soon as you can around the area of the incision after the surgery. If you cannot get near the incision because of bandages, you can also apply several drops of the oil to the bottoms of your feet, where it will be absorbed into your bloodstream. This oil is thought to prevent MRSA, the drug-resistant form of staph bacteria that 1 in 20 patients contract in hospitals, and that has been show to be present in 3 out of 4 hospital rooms.
During your recovery, take some time to mentally reconnect with your knee. Many people experience fear of seeing the wound or fear of putting weight on their knee once it has gone through the trauma of surgery. By bringing your attention to sensations in the knee you can help it to recover faster.
It is likely that you will be encouraged by a physical therapist to move your knee to soften the scar tissue that will form at the incision sites. This is painful at first, but will get easier and easier as you go.
You can expect to need to rest after your surgery for at least two weeks. After that, your doctor and physical therapist will work out a program, probably of about six weeks in length, that you should undertake. This will involve strength and flexibility exercises and manipulations of the physical therapist.