Knee Arthroscopy: How to Prepare

Knee arthroscopy is a surgical procedure performed to repair or remove damaged structures within the knee joint after nonsurgical methods are unable to alleviate your symptoms. The procedure is scheduled in advance and often takes one hour or less to complete. Learn how to prepare for this minimally-invasive surgery.

Surgical nurse wheeling patient to surgery in hospital
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Location

Knee arthroscopy is usually performed as an outpatient surgical procedure meaning that you can go home the same day of the surgery without having to stay overnight in the hospital.

A surgeon and operating team can perform your knee arthroscopy either in a hospital or outpatient surgical center. Both locations are equipped with the appropriate staff, medical monitoring technology, and surgical instruments to complete the operation.

Whether your operation is scheduled in a hospital or outpatient surgical center depends on the schedule availability of the operating rooms as well as the availability and preference of your surgeon.

What to Wear

You will be asked to remove all clothing, undergarments, and jewelry and change into a hospital gown before the operation. Make sure to wear clothing that is easy to change out of and keep valuables at home to prevent anything from getting lost.

After your surgery, you may have some soreness and discomfort in your knee. You should come prepared with loose, comfortable pants or shorts to change into after the operation. Loose pants or shorts will make getting dressed easier as it may be painful or uncomfortable to bend your knee immediately after the operation.

There may also be swelling in your knee after the surgery that can limit your range of motion and ability to bend your knee. Avoid tight-fitting pants that will compress the knee.

Food and Drink

Eating or drinking before knee arthroscopy can cause problems during surgery and result in potential interactions with anesthesia while you are undergoing the operation. As a general recommendation, you should stop eating and drinking between eight to twelve hours before your scheduled procedure to minimize risks.

This includes:

  • All meals, whether large or small
  • Snacks
  • Candies, mints, and gum
  • Beverages, including coffee and tea
  • Alcohol
  • Water

Eating a healthy diet and staying adequately hydrated in the days and weeks leading up to your surgery will help minimize inflammation in your body and ease your recovery from the operation.

Medications

You may need to stop taking certain medications in the days leading up to the surgery to prevent excess bleeding or interaction with anesthesia during the operation. Always consult with your doctor about all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements that you are taking for your safety.

Your doctor will inform you if you need to stop taking any medications before the operation and will provide you with an appropriate timeline to do so. You may need to stop taking certain medications as far out as one week before your scheduled surgery, while other medications may be taken the morning of your surgery.

If your doctor permits you to take medication the day of your surgery, be sure to do so with as little water as possible to minimize fluid content in the stomach and rest of the gastrointestinal system.

There are no specific medications that you need to take to prepare for your knee arthroscopy. The surgical team will administer the correct dosage of anesthesia depending upon what method they determine is appropriate for the surgical work that needs to be done during your knee arthroscopy.

The type of anesthesia administered for knee arthroscopy can vary and includes the following:

  • Local anesthesia: You will be awake for the procedure. Anesthesia is injected into the knee joint only to numb the area.
  • Regional anesthesia: You will be awake for the procedure. Anesthesia is injected into the spine of your lower back to numb your body from the waist down.
  • General anesthesia: You will be put to sleep for the procedure. Anesthesia is delivered intravenously through an IV in either your arm or hand. 

You will also be given appropriate pain medication after the operation to help with your recovery.

What to Bring

Because knee arthroscopy is typically an outpatient procedure, you will not need to pack any belongings to stay overnight in the hospital. Before your surgery, you will need to have the following items with you:

  • A form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Insurance documentation
  • Loose, comfortable clothing to change into after the operation

Make sure to arrange for a friend or family member to provide transportation for you to and from the location where your surgery will take place as you will not be allowed to drive home after the operation.

Your doctor may restrict you from driving in the beginning days or weeks after the surgery, especially if your right knee is operated on. It will be up to your surgeon to decide when you can be cleared to resume driving again after your knee arthroscopy.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

It is recommended that you stay active, eat a healthy diet, and stop smoking prior to any operation to promote optimal healing and make recovery as smooth as possible. 

Minimizing stress and prioritizing good mental and emotional health are also important to lower levels of inflammation in the body to aid in your recovery. The healthier you go into surgery, the easier recovery and rehabilitation will be to get you back to participating in your everyday activities.

A Word From Verywell

The surgical team will provide you with more detailed instructions regarding what you will need to do in the days and hours before surgery depending on your procedure type and medical history.

Always follow your doctor’s instructions, especially if you need to stop taking certain medications, to avoid complications during surgery and ensure best possible outcomes of your operation. 

Because the nature of knee arthroscopy involves smaller incisions and less damage to the skin, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves surrounding the knee, the rehabilitation process can often be shorter and easier than recovery from more extensive knee operations. Arthroscopic procedures often result in less pain, stiffness, and swelling post-operatively.

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  1. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Knee arthroscopy. Updated September 2016.