What To Expect After Your Total Knee Replacement

A joint replacement is a major surgical procedure on the knee. It affects all of the bones, tendons and ligaments that control the movement of your knee joint. A slow and steady recovery is key to the return of your knee's natural movements. Here is what can expect after you've had this corrective surgery.

The Day of Surgery

The hospital staff will get you out of bed and standing shortly after your knee surgery. It has been determined that using your knee soon after the surgery is healthier than being immobile for several days. You'll learn to use crutches or a walker to take a few steps. Physical therapy will also show you some range-of-motion exercises for your knee to keep it flexible and reduce the creation of scar tissue.

From the Second Day Until Discharge

While you recover in the hospital, the nursing staff will monitor the surgical incision for any signs of infections. You will continue to do knee exercises and will begin to walk over greater distances. The physical therapists will work with you to learn to walk over uneven surfaces and up and down stairs. Your diet will be monitored so you eat foods rich in nutrients that strengthen bone and muscle.

Your discharge from the hospital depends upon you achieving a few goals such as:

  • Your pain is controlled with over-the-counter pain medications
  • You can get in and out of the bed and chair with a minimum amount of help
  • You can walk down the hall and navigate stairs safely using crutches or a walker
  • Your knee can bend a specific number of degrees as specified by your orthopedist
  • You can perform all of your knee exercises on your own

Your doctor will have their own criteria for your discharge depending on how complicate your surgery was. They may have additional goals for you to reach before you go home.

What to Expect While Recovering at Home

You will need to stick to the exercises and walking instructions given to you by your doctor before leaving the hospital. If you become inactive at home, the muscles in your knee will become tense and you'll lose flexibility, making it difficult to walk or bend your knee. Daily exercises and walking keep those muscles relaxed and flexible.

You'll need help for a few days after you get home. A friend or family member will need to help you get in and out of bed and around your house. If for no other reason, they need to be there in case you get in trouble. Should you slip and fall on a wet surface in your kitchen, you'll need to go back to the hospital to have X-rays and an examination to make sure nothing in your knee was damaged.

You will have a few follow up appointments with your doctor to evaluate the flexibility of your knee. They may order additional physical therapy to accelerate your recovery. Once you are able to walk unassisted and you have minimal pain that is controlled by over-the-counter pain medicine, your doctor will consider you fully recovered from your surgery.

This doesn't mean you are completely done with your therapy. You will gradually put your knee through more activities as the muscles and tendons heal and strengthen. Eventually your knee will return to its natural range-of-motion and you'll be able to ride a bicycle and play sports.

It will take several months for your knee to become a normally functioning knee joint. Whether your knee surgery was done because of an injury or degenerative process, you can expect your knee to give you years of pain-free service when you follow this gradual timeline for recovery. Contact a business like Noyes Knee Institute for more information about knee surgery.