Knee replacement recovery

Your knee replacement: recovery

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.

Post-operative care

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:

  • A large dressing may be applied to your incision. This bandage helps to maintain cleanliness and absorb any fluid that seeps from the incision.
  • A drain may be placed near your incision in order to record the amount of drainage from the wound.
  • You may be wearing elastic stockings, or a compression stocking sleeve to help minimize your risk of blood clots.
  • A PCA (patient-controlled analgesia) device that delivers a small amount of pain medication may be connected to your IV. The unit is designed to deliver a small, controlled flow of pain medication; it This device is button-activated activates when you firmly press the button on the machineand delivers a controlled amount of pain medication. Follow the instructions of your care team on how to use the PCA device.
  • A catheter may be inserted in your bladder as the side effects of anesthesia can make it difficult to urinate.

Post-surgical pain management

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.

Recovering from knee replacement surgery

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.

Physical therapy and rehabilitation

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.

Post-surgery exercise

Your care team's post-surgical activity program may include:

  • A walking program that gradually builds up your mobility, in your home to begin with, and outside as soon as practical
  • Getting back to normal household routines - sitting, standing, climbing stairs, getting in and out of bed and so on
  • A series of prescribed exercises repeated several times a day will to help you regain your maximum range of movement and build strength in your knee.

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.

Important safety notes

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.

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. 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. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

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