Flintoff was bought by IPL side Chennai Super Kings for a record fee
England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has returned to England from playing in the Indian Premier League in South Africa to undergo surgery on his right knee.
The England and Wales Cricket Board expects Flintoff to be out of action for three to five weeks.
It means the 31-year-old will miss the two-Test series against West Indies, which starts at Lord's on 6 May.
But he should be fit for the ICC World Twenty20 in June and the Ashes series against Australia which follows.
England managing director Hugh Morris said: "Andrew has been extremely unlucky with injuries but if there is one saving grace it is that the injury has occurred now rather than on the eve of either the ICC World Twenty20 or the Ashes.
"Having the surgery now means he should be available for both those events, although he is certain to miss the Test series against the West Indies."
BBC Cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew believes Flintoff's injury is a big blow to England, and one which could have been avoided.
"It's the worst possible news as far as the ECB is concerned," he said. "There will be people saying 'we told you so, you've let your prize assets play in the IPL'.
"The board will say they had to let them go because they really wanted to go and they created a window for them, but bingo, within the opening few days one of them has come back with a serious injury."
Flintoff felt discomfort in his right knee while playing for Chennai Super Kings, who signed him for a record fee of £1.1m at the pre-season auction.
As a result, the Chennai medical staff immediately contacted ECB chief medical officer Dr Nick Peirce who, after viewing scans which revealed a slight medial meniscal tear, suggested Flintoff fly home.
FLINTOFF'S INJURY WOES
Returns early from South Africa with broken foot
Back injury ends Pakistan tour
Hernia operation and later returns from Ashes tour with groin problem
Misses Zimbabwe series with shoulder injury
Ankle surgery in January
Out for 12 weeks after ankle surgery
More surgery to left ankle
Misses series in New Zealand because of side strain
Misses part of Test and one-day series in West Indies because of hip injury
Misses home Test series against West Indies because of knee injury
"Clearly this is a huge disappointment for both the player and the IPL team," said Peirce. "This sort of degenerative injury though is one that could have happened at any time any where.
"The procedures we put in place meant that the ECB medical staff were alerted about the problem immediately and we thank Chennai for their co operation."
Flintoff has played 75 Tests and 141 one-day internationals since making his England debut in 1998 but it would have been many more but for the string of injury problems he has suffered.
Most recently, he flew home from the tour of the West Indies for treatment on a a hip injury, which meant he missed the fourth and fifth Tests of a series England ultimately lost 1-0.
He returned in time for the end of the one-day series and took a hat-trick in the fifth and deciding match in St Lucia to help England to victory.
Flintoff then headed for South Africa, but made an unimpressive start to his IPL career, taking only two wickets in three matches at a cost of 105 runs - an economy rate of 9.54 - and making 62 runs, with a highest score of 24.
And there were reports that Chennai captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was considering leaving Flintoff out of the team to play Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday.
Jim Cumbes, chief executive of Flintoff's county club Lancashire, said the injury was a "desperate blow".
"He's had a number of injuries which have affected his career, but at least this one could, by the sound of things, have happened at any time.
"I've had a cartilage problem myself and I know it's something that happens over a period of time - it's not something that just goes."