Important Facts to Know About Knee Surgery

Sep 30, 2020 | Articles

As one of the largest and considered to be one of the most complex joints in the human body, the knee is also one of the hardest working joints. It is a hinge-type synovial joint of which the function is mainly to flex and extend, allowing us to walk, run, sit, jump, and do many more of the motions that keep us mobile. As such, it is also very prone to injury and deterioration, which may lead to the need for knee surgery.

When Would One Require Knee Surgery?

Typically, knee surgery is required when the joint experiences some form of structural damage or prolonged pain that is not responding sufficiently to conservative forms of treatment. These types of injuries or pain can be caused by accidents, sports injuries, or a range of conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Main Types of Knee Surgery

Typically, knee surgery can most often be classified as one of two types of procedures:

  • Arthroscopic

This is what is known as a type of keyhole surgery, where a small incision is made through which a thin scope is inserted. This scope is either to obtain a visual of the inside of the joint for further diagnosis, or it contains tiny surgical instruments to perform less-invasive procedures inside the joint without the need to open the entire knee.

Most common procedures of this type include the removal or repair of a torn meniscus or loose fragments of bone or cartilage, reconstruction of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), removal of inflamed connective tissue, and trimming of damaged articular cartilage.

  • Arthroplasty

This is generally known as a knee replacement surgery. This procedure focuses on resurfacing the joint when damaged too far for natural repair. It consists of capping the ends of the bones that form the joint using metal and plastic parts. This is typically reserved for severe injuries.

While your surgeon should carefully and explicitly take you through all the steps and requirements both before and after knee surgery, here are some of the important facts and tips to remember:

Before the Procedure

  • Remember to obtain an authorisation number from your medical aid at least five working days before planned operation (unless it’s an emergency).
  • Confirm what time to stop eating and drinking.
  • Do not smoke at least six hours before or directly after your operation, as you may feel nauseous.
  • If you’re on any chronic medication, bring this along and hand it to the nurse.
  • Bring an overnight bag along with a change of clothes and toiletries, and leave all valuables at home if possible.


After the Procedure

  • Elevate the leg: Use ice packs and the medication prescribed as necessary to reduce potential pain and swelling.


  • Showering: You can resume your regular showering as long as there is no drainage from the incision sites. Be careful not to let water run over the covered incision, as you want to keep the wound dressing dry. After the stitches have been removed, you can let water run over the incision, and dry the area as per normal with a clean towel afterwards.


  • Removing the stitches: The stitches will either dissolve or must be removed two weeks after your knee surgery. You should receive the appropriate information before you are discharged from the hospital.


  • Follow-up appointment: Most doctors prefer that the patient is seen two weeks after the operation to evaluate the wound, if possible. A follow-up after six weeks is compulsory to evaluate the efficacy of the procedure and the recovery.

Watch Out for the Following Symptoms

As with any surgery, there is a risk of complications arising. These can include but are not limited to infection, pain, blood clots, bruising, bleeding, or fluid drainage. If any of the following occurs, contact your doctor right away:

  • Fever, chills, or sweats.
  • Redness and warmth around the incision.
  • Non-clearing drainage from the incision.
  • Increased pain in and around the incision.
  • Calf swelling, redness, pain, or warmth in the leg.
  • Chest pain, difficulty breathing, or coughing.

All Your Questions About Knee Surgery Answered

As the President of the South African Orthopaedic Association (SAOA), and the President of the South African Arthroplasty Society, the Pretoria Hip, Knee and Shoulder Surgeon Dr Jan de Vos, is one of the leading authorities on this subject matter. For more information on knee surgery, get in touch with his office today.