How Long Does Recovery Take After Knee Cartilage Repair?

Following surgery to repair damaged knee cartilage, patients are moved to the recovery room until the effects of the anesthetic wear off. Minimally-invasive surgeries like knee arthroscopy typically allow individuals to return home on the same day as their operation, but more extensive repairs involving open surgery could require a few days of clinical care and observation.

After being discharged, patients will need crutches in the first 2-6 weeks of their recovery to reduce weight bearing on their operated knee. Symptom management is similar to conservative treatment and includes:

  • Using ice to reduce joint inflammation
  • Pain relief medication as prescribed by surgeons
  • Resting the knee and keeping it elevated

Some patients may require a cast or brace to keep the knee immobile, and maintaining an adequate weight is vital for relieving stress on the joint. Novel regenerative treatments such as platelet-rich plasma, exosome, or stem cell injections can help patients recover faster by stimulating new cell growth.

Patients can typically return to non-strenuous activities and sedentary occupations after about 6 weeks. Physical therapy and rehabilitation are essential to healing and regaining proper knee function, but the recovery time will vary for every person, according to the type of repair.

Patients that undergo osteochondral allograft or autograft procedures are usually cleared after about 6 months, while autologous chondrocyte implantation and microfractures could require 12-16 months to recuperate. Professional athletes and active individuals should use supportive braces for a few months after being cleared to avoid reinjures and future repairs.