Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Meniscus Surgery: Before Your Surgery
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Meniscus Surgery: Before Your Surgery

Meniscus and meniscus tear

What is meniscus surgery?

Meniscus surgery removes or fixes the cartilage between the bones in the knee. This cartilage is called the meniscus. Each knee has two of these rubbery pads of cartilage, one on either side. When a meniscus tears, your knee may be painful, swell, get stiff, or lock up.

Your doctor may use small tools to remove parts of the damaged meniscus and smooth the edges. This is called a partial meniscectomy (say "men-ih-SEK-tuh-mee"). In some cases, tears in the meniscus can be sewn back together. But if your meniscus can't be repaired, the doctor may remove the damaged part.

Meniscus surgery is usually done as arthroscopic surgery. Your doctor uses a lighted tube called an arthroscope, or scope. He or she puts the scope and other surgical tools through small cuts in your knee. These cuts are called incisions. They leave scars that usually fade with time.

The surgery will take at least 1 hour. Most people go home the same day of the surgery. You may have to use crutches after surgery. If so, be sure you have a backpack or clothes with a lot of pockets to carry items.

How soon you can go back to work and your normal routine depends on your job and the type of surgery you had. If you sit at work, you may be able to go back in 1 to 2 weeks. But if you are on your feet at work, it may take 4 to 6 weeks. If you are very physically active in your job, it may take 3 to 6 months.

You may need physical rehabilitation (rehab) after surgery. The program may last for several months. At first, your physiotherapist will work with you. Later, you will get exercises to do on your own. After surgery and rehab, you are likely to have less pain and more flexibility in your knee.

How soon you can return to sports or exercise depends on how well you follow your rehab program and how well your knee heals. If you had a partial meniscectomy, you might be able to play sports in about 1 to 2 months. If you had meniscus repair, it may be 3 to 6 months before you can play sports.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines, including natural health products, such as vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take at least 1 hour.
  • Your leg may be in a leg brace to limit motion. You may need to wear a brace for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
  • You may have a device that applies cold treatment to your knee.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter W287 in the search box to learn more about "Meniscus Surgery: Before Your Surgery".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.