The team said in a statement that he will miss a "significant portion" of training camp. Detroit opens the preseason at home against Cincinnati on Aug. 12. The Lions start the regular season at Tampa Bay on Sept. 11.
Fairley, the Lombardi Trophy winner at national champion Auburn last season, was injured Monday and in a walking cast a day later after X-rays showed no significant damage.
He was sent to Charlotte, N.C., for further evaluation Wednesday morning, and Dr. Bob Anderson performed the surgery. The team did not provide details on the procedure.
Fairley had 11½ sacks last season and a total of 24 stops behind the line for Auburn.
The Lions have finally started to roll in the Motor City, closing last season with four wins and a 6-10 record two years after being the NFL's first 0-16 team. Suh was a big reason, and Detroit chose to beef up perhaps its strongest unit by drafting Fairley.
His progress, already slowed by the lockout, is now on hold again.
Detroit has already had to put defensive back Alphonso Smith and offensive tackle Jeff Backus on the active/non-football injury list. Smith broke his left foot, and Backus is recovering from a pectoral injury.