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Recovering from Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

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  • Recovering from Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

    It looks like I might have to have my meniscus repaired in my right knee. It's a chronic problem from years of ballet. I'm not sure yet what would be involved (repairing the tear or removal of the meniscus etc.) but I'm wondering what kinds of recoveries others have gone through. I know that it varies person to person and all that but I'm looking fo a good range.

    Also, I'm wondering if I should have the procedure done now or wait until late fall. I'd really rather not do it now as I feel like I'm just on the brink of some really cool discoveries in the saddle!

    Thoughts please.
    Forward momentum!

  • #2
    Not for the meniscus but for tendon release. It shouldn't be too bad at all as long as you keep it free from infection. I think I'd do it now, given the weather! (And I did - mine was right around Xmas when I had it done.)
    a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


    • #3
      I worked with the orthopaedic surgeon for the MetroStars (pro soccer team). And I've had a piece of my own meniscus removed.

      With that said, meniscal repairs are very difficult and pretty rare; the sutures generally do not hold and if it does happen to heal, it's prone to re-tear. Plus you're looking at 6 weeks on crutches (non weight bearing!) with a meniscal repair.

      If they go in and snip out the torn part or just smooth the edges of the tear, you're generally off crutches in 2 or 3 days, max. I walked into my post-op appt. the day after surgery without crutches and not much of a limp at all. I was driving the day after that (left knee was done and I do not have a manual car!). Pain was not too bad and I really only needed Motrin after the first few days.

      Your knee will be swollen, ice is your friend. Ice both the top of your knee and under your knee. No more than 20 minutes at a time. Keep your leg elevated! If you find you cannot fully straighten your knee to 180 degrees, do not put a pillow under your knee. Put it under your ankle to encourage full extension in your knee.

      PT will last about 4-6 weeks but you'll be riding far before that. If it's your left knee (as it was mine), you can mount from the other side for awhile.

      If there's anything I haven't covered or if you need a source for the best ice packs in the world, feel free to PM me!

      Best of luck!


      ETA: I saw your injury is chronic (mine was as well); meniscal repairs are generally only done with an acute injury.
      Last edited by tarynls; Jan. 13, 2010, 01:45 AM. Reason: addition


      • Original Poster

        Tarynls that's really interesting. If that's the case, I might want to get it done now.

        I think I'm just running on speculation right now. I'll wait and see what the good doctor says he sees in my films. I *think* I see fluid in the knee joint but that's all. I want to know!
        Forward momentum!


        • #5
          I'd get it done now if it were my knee. You'll be pretty good to go by March/April and that's better riding weather anyway!

          Let me know what the doc says



          • #6
            Tarynis, that's interesting, because I had a meniscal repair done a couple of years ago and it's held VERY well. I had very little swelling (ok, so I probably got lucky with the area of the repair), even though I also had to have a cyst removed and my patella resurfaced. I had minor degenerative changes (I'm 43 and tore it surfing). I was very careful with my PT, and was back surfing within 4 months. I had to surf in a brace for a while (I was a competitive longboarder at the time) but after about 8 months I was surfing without it.

            It was in my left leg, so didn't impact my getting off/on the horse that much, but I didn't ride for about 6 months, just because I could really see that tearing it worse than surfing (I have NO idea why, except that I was riding a young tb at the time), but when I started riding again I did have some pain in my knee, and just had to hang my leg from time to time to rest it.

            My doctor was pretty encouraging about the surgery - he didn't know what he was going to do until he got in there - he thought there was a good chance of a repair because of the location of the tear, but he reserved judgement as to whether he would repair or remove till he got in there and saw what he was dealing with. He used metal anchors rather than sutures, so I still have a bit of metal in there, but I don't notice it.


            • #7
              Oh, and it hurt MUCH worse than I expected immediately after surgery (not sure what I was expecting - it was my very first surgery ever ) but not as bad as I was expecting after that. The PT was good - it was a little uncomfortable at first, but I forgot - the doctor and I speculated that because I'm on heavy duty anti-inflammatory medications for my severe osteoarthritis that perhaps that kept the swelling down so much that it accelerated my healing. I saw other people in there in PT with much slower progress because their knees were quite swollen.


              • #8
                The sooner, the better. I waited so long (for the first surgery) that I had changed the way I walked (changing to landing on my toe instead of heel first). Rehab took a lot longer as I had to relearn how to walk properly. Had to give up jumping (note: will not apply in every case), but was already making the change to more dressage. Now when I pop over an occasional log, my knee swells. I notice now that my knee hurts if I go for a week without riding, so riding helps me.


                • #9
                  I had a meniscal tear repaired in my left knee about 25 years ago. The ortho gave me a TENS unit to use for a week or two after surgery, and when he said I could really start moving it, I sat on a rolling chair, feet flat on floor, and just rolled back and forth to loosen it up. Then started doing knee bends, etc. Also massaged it ALOT to keep adhesions from forming. I credit that with a quick and pain free recover. I think I was 100% within a few weeks. Byt the time I got around to PT -- they said "You really don't need us -- you've done a great job on your own."

                  About 10 years or so later, it started swelling REALLY badly -- couldn't bend it, etc -- and did have to go in and have it touched up. I was good as new in a few weeks.

                  And, just to match things -- I fell off a fence in December of 08 and obliterated my ACL and MCL in my right knee. Did all the immobilization and rehab in preparation for ACL reconstruction surgery -- and it came back so well that the doctor said I really didn't need to bother with the surgery right then if I didn't want to. I was back on my horse in just a few months from that one.

                  The real test for me was getting back on skiis -- which I did about a month ago (with a brace!) and it never felt as if there was anything abnormal with my knee.

                  Lots of strengthening is the key!

                  Good luck --- it's really not a bad surgery!
                  Cold Spring Farm
                  German and Arabian-related GOV sporthorses



                  • #10
                    I mentioned that meniscal repairs are rare because 90% of the meniscus does not have a good blood supply; sutures won't hold very well there and it generally doesn't heal well.

                    I have seen successful meniscal repairs where the tear was relatively small and on the outer border of the meniscus, which does have a good blood supply.

                    Glad to hear your repaired meniscuses (meniscii?) are doing well!



                    • #11
                      I am about 8 wks out of a Tibial Tubercle Transfer, which is arthroscopic knee surgery and a realigned (aka 'broken on purpose') tibia.
                      It's probably too early to give you a clear picture of whether it was worth it or not to me. My issue was a patella riding way off to the side and years of damage from that. One thing, my knee doesn't make noises any more. But I'm still in PT and not totally able to use it fully.
                      We're spending our money on horses and bourbon. The rest we're just wasting.


                      • #12
                        not bad, but, watch out for being put under!

                        My experience was similar to Marynis' What set me back was the general anesthesia, though, I was still able to drive myself "home 4 hours north of Boston in a snow storm! btw. my surgery could not be done spectroscopically , so, the knee had to be opened up
                        breeder of Mercury!

                        remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                        • #13

                          If it's any encouragement to you, the year after the surgery to remove the damaged meniscus, I rode around Radnor; I had set that as a goal before surgery; it had been on the schedule the year we fell at Chesterland, where the knee was damaged so, it was good toget it done!
                          Last edited by Carol Ames; Jan. 15, 2010, 10:34 PM. Reason: typos
                          breeder of Mercury!

                          remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                          • #14
                            muscle Spasms

                            The pain I experienced after surgery was primarily muscle spasms, and they were severe I tried the pain Meds but, hey made me too drowsy, muscle relaxers were what REALLY HELPED
                            breeder of Mercury!

                            remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                            • Original Poster

                              Originally posted by Carol Ames View Post
                              The pain I experienced after surgery was primarily muscle spasms, and they were severe I tried the pain Meds but, hey made me too drowsy, muscle relaxers were what REALLY HELPED
                              Interesting. I'm not too worried about pain. I've broken my pelvis (falling off) and if I can deal with that, the examinations without morphine and those surgeries, I think I can deal with most surgical pain.

                              What I AM worried about is recovery time. And I guess I won't know that until I know more about what type we're talking about!

                              thanks for all the responses. It really helps to hear all the stories.
                              Forward momentum!


                              • #16
                                I have had both my right and left knees done.
                                My right one was done in 1999. It was a minor tear that was just cut out and edges smoothed, aurthoscopic surgery on an out patient basis. I was back riding in a week. Tentatively at first, but back at it for real with in about 2 weeks. My knee would swell after I had ridden 4 horses and worked a shift waitressing, so I iced a lot. I did not do any PT at all, and followed my doctors instructions to go back to my normal life.

                                I waited too long before I had my left knee done. Before surgery I was given the option of meniscus repair if they could. I told them just to cut it out as the repair means being non weight bearing for 8 weeks. It was a moot point any way as my meniscus was so shredded that they ended up taking 80% of it on (medial side). The recovery for this was more painful. I was stupid and just rested my knee on a pillow which made it impossible for me to straighten it. So for this surgery I had to go to PT. Learned a whole lot there. But the good news is I was back riding within 10 days. It would hurt, but once they cut the meniscus tear out you can not do any damage to it so the pain is just "ouchy pain" vs. "damage pain"

                                Today both knees are completely fine. I forget that I ever had surgery.
                                I'd say get it done as soon as possible.
                                "Half the failures in life result from pulling in one's horse when it is leaping."



                                • #17
                                  Just my 2 sense!

                                  Like everyone else said; suggest repair /removal of torn meniscus sooner than later. It's a good time of year too! I've had 3 tears with 3 arthroscopic removals on same knee. Recovery depends on pre surgical condition, how well you rehab and your weight. Follow their orders. Minimum time to riding= 2 weeks
                                  Max = 6weeks
                                  Don't rush it. You will have a likely 100% recovery IF you do it right.

                                  Additionally, the torn piece can float around some in the knee joint and when it gets caught between the bones it's exquisite pain of acute onset. THAT'S why you wanna have it done sooner. Every step you take can be making the tear worse. Just GIT R DONE!! Then Ride On!!!


                                  • #18
                                    I have it done about 7 years ago. I was into PT starting on day 3 after the surgery. I was not given the okay to ride until a month/month and a half after the surgery, but I was riding maybe two weeks after the surgery. I was careful not to overdo it and mostly worked no stirrup for several weeks. Most of the initial discomfort I felt stemmed around the swelling and the gas/fluids that are in the knee due to the procedure. Once that got out, the knee sure felt better than it had prior to surgery!

                                    Listen to your doctor as far as management right after the surgery. Someone above suggested elevating the foot. My doctor did not give me instructions on elevation, so I naturally assumed to elevate the leg. BIG mistake. When I went that third day for the first PT appointment they were able to tell that's what I had been doing, and told me no way to elevation. I can't remember exactly why now, but it made sense and I was so much more comfortable after I stopped with the elevation.

                                    You will have to work on range of motion following the procedure, but luckily riding doesn't require too great of ROM like something like ballet would. Not sure if you plan on ever dancing again. I, too, was a dancer. At the time of my surgery I was in college and no longer dancing, but I did end up taking a ballet class a couple of years after the surgery and had no problems with the knee/range of motion/pain.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Well the good news is that according to my MRI I don't have any tears. I just have really crappy cartilage. So now I'm going on glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (feeling like I should be contacting smartpak here!) for a few months to see if that helps.

                                      I'm so thrilled I don't need surgery. Thanks for all your advice and stories. I really appreciate them!
                                      Forward momentum!


                                      • #20
                                        I got back on two weeks out, but it was on a horse I trusted. The worse part was getting off, it took a bit to figure out how. I was lucky that we had a 3 ft pile of sand in the arena for new footing walked the mare right into it, belly high and she stood perfectly still for about 20 min until I could figure it out. I love that mare.