Knee replacement is most commonly performed as an inpatient procedure in a hospital. However, as healthcare options expand and surgical techniques continue to improve, alternatives including outpatient surgery and shorter hospital stays are becoming more common. Whatever is the best option for you, your medical team will help manage your pain following surgery, and your recovery and rehabilitation will begin shortly after your release from the surgical recovery area.
Remember, the information in this section is not intended to replace professional medical advice. If you have questions or concerns, turn to your doctor for answers.
After your surgery, you will be transported to a recovery room for close observation of your vital signs, circulation, and sensation in your legs and feet. After you awaken and your medical team is comfortable with your progress, you may be transferred to your room or, in the case of outpatient surgery, discharged to go home. Here are some things you may notice as you recover from your surgery:
It is natural and normal to feel some pain after your knee surgery. Your doctor and care team will work to reduce your pain, which may help speed the healing process and make it easier for you recover more quickly.
Short-term pain relief after surgery is usually accomplished using prescription medications. Pain relief medicines that might be used include opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and local anesthetics for pain at the surgical site. You may be prescribed a combination of medicines for the most effective pain relief, as well as to reduce the need for opioids.
It is important to note that opioids are a narcotic and can be addictive. If you are prescribed opioids, be sure to use them exactly as your doctor instructs. The aim is to stop taking opioids as your pain level of pain begins to improve. If your pain doesn't improve within the timeframe discussed with your care team, be sure and tell this to your doctor.
Successful recovery from your surgery greatly depends on you, the patient. How quickly and how completely you recover depends on a number of factors including how thoroughly you follow your surgeon's instructions as you begin rehabilitation (usually the day after the surgery). Equally important to your recovery time is how well you stick to your therapy and rehab plan at home in the weeks immediately after surgery.
Depending on how quickly you recover in the hours following your surgery, it is not uncommon to be asked to begin moving your knee on the same day as your operation. Most patients will also begin working with physical therapists as early as the day after surgery, lifting, stretching and flexing their legs and bending the new knee joint. The therapist will help you learn specialized exercises to strengthen your leg and restore a full range of knee motion. The aim is to help you return to walking and other normal daily activities as soon as possible after your surgery. Once you are home, you may be prescribed a series of physical therapy sessions to take place in the weeks following your surgery.
While every patient's recovery is different, many patients are able to resume most normal activities within about 3 to 6 weeks after surgery. You should expect some pain during activity and at night for several weeks after the procedure; you should alert your doctor if the pain is severe or if it persists beyond a few weeks.
Your care team's post-surgical activity program may include:
You'll likely be able to return to driving once your knee is flexible enough to let you enter and sit comfortably in your car, and your muscle control allows you to accelerate smoothly and brake safely.
Individual results of joint replacement vary. Implants are intended to relieve knee pain and improve function, but may not produce the same feel or function as your original knee. There are potential risks with knee replacement surgery such as loosening, wear and infection that may result in the need for additional surgery. Patients should not perform high impact activities such as running and jumping unless their surgeon tells them that the bone has healed and these activities are acceptable. Early device failure, breakage or loosening may occur if a surgeon's limitations on activity level are not followed.
OrthoInfo article: Total Knee Replacement, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
2 S&N Brochure: PE 07505 V1 JOURNEY XR full brochure 12.16 - ORBIS comments
The information listed on this site is for informational and educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice. Every patient's case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor's specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation.