Recovering From a Knee Replacement

Last Updated : 09/15/20185 min read

Knee replacement surgery is getting more and more common, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported in 2016. The agency estimates that joint replacement surgery (such as knee replacement) will be one of the most common elective surgeries by 2030, with about 11 million Americans having knee or hip replacement surgery.

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The knee is the biggest joint in your body, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). There are several ways you might help your knee replacement recovery, discussed below.

Knee replacement recovery may start soon after surgery

After you have knee replacement surgery, your doctor might order a continuous passive motion (CPM) exercise machine for your using during recovery. This machine moves your knee slowly as you’re lying down. It might help your circulation and decrease swelling, according to the AAOS.

How soon can I walk after knee replacement surgery?

It’s likely you’ll be able to walk soon after surgery, according to the AAOS. Some people start exercising the same day they have surgery. Always ask your doctor for guidance about exercise and other surgery-related information.

What kind of knee replacement recovery can I expect?

You can expect to feel some pain at first, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Your doctor might prescribe pain medication, and might also prescribe medication to reduce the risk of blood clots.

You might need crutches, a cane, or a walker; ask your doctor which is the most appropriate choice for you for knee replacement recovery.

You could feel numb or stiff around the knee replacement incision site.

Please note that you might not be able to drive at first. The AAOS estimates that most people can drive within four to six weeks after surgery. However, when you can resume driving depends on when you can comfortably bend your knee and when your muscle strength and control are good enough for you to drive safely.

It’s possible to hear clicking sounds when you’re bending your knee, but it’s generally no cause for alarm and might diminish over time.

The AAOS reports that 90% of knee replacements last for at least 15 years.

What can I do to help my recovery from knee replacement surgery?

Light exercise is important – especially during your first few weeks after knee replacement surgery, the AAOS reports. Your doctor might prescribe physical therapy. Generally a gradual approach to exercise may help you recover, the AAOS states. For example, slow walking may be best at first, progressing eventually to stair climbing.

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Here are some more of the tips the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends to help your knee replacement recovery. Your doctor should give you instructions; always ask your doctor if you have questions or if any of these tips aren’t on the doctor’s list.

  • Keep the incision site dry.
  • At first, you may want to avoid climbing stairs.
  • Elevating the leg that had surgery may help reduce swelling.
  • Rotating your foot and ankle can boost your blood circulation.
  • Be especially careful to avoid falling if possible.
  • Make sure you clearly understand your doctor’s instructions for knee replacement recovery before you start exercising
  • Tell your dentist that you’ve had knee replacement surgery. Ask your doctor if you’ll have to take antibiotics before having dental work.
  • See your orthopedic surgeon for a follow-up visit. Ask the surgeon when the follow-up will be. He or she might want you to visit once a year to check your knee replacement.

What can go wrong with knee replacement recovery?

There’s a risk of deep vein thrombosis when you have knee replacement surgery, according to a National Library of Medicine publication.

Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in a vein deep inside your body, usually in your leg, the National Institutes of Health states. This type of blood clot can travel elsewhere in your body. If it goes to a lung, it could block an artery, resulting in a pulmonary embolism.

Ask your doctor about how you might reduce the risk of blood clots after a knee replacement. He or she might prescribe a blood-thinning medication, according to the AAOS.

Tell your doctor right away if you have any of these:

  • Increasing pain and swelling in your lower leg
  • Redness or tenderness above or below the knee.
  • Sudden shortness of breath or pain in your chest
  • Chest pain and coughing

The AAOS also suggests that you watch for signs of infection. These may include fever, chills, increasing redness or swelling, increasing pain in the knee, or leakage from the incision site. If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.

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