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What to Expect When Recovering From Knee Replacement Surgery

Sep 21, 2021

If you’re getting or considering knee replacement surgery, you're not alone. More than 790,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed each year in the United States.

At Artemis Health in Santa Monica and Toraance, California. our expert orthopedic surgeons specialize in knee replacement surgery. But the surgery is only half of the process. Your recovery is just as important as the surgery itself. Here’s what you need to know.

The recovery plan

You’ll be given an individualized recovery and rehabilitation plan when you’re discharged from the hospital. You’ll need to follow this plan closely, because it will help you regain knee strength and range of motion as quickly as possible. 

The sooner you heal, the sooner you’ll be able to get back to living your life independently. Plus, following the plan will help you avoid potential complications associated with knee surgery, such as infections.

The timeline for recovery

Exactly when you leave the hospital will depend on the complexity of your surgery, your general health, and how you respond to the anesthesia. You can expect to go home or to a care facility within 1-5 days of your surgery. 

Once released from the hospital, it will take about six weeks for you to get back to most of your daily activities. You can expect a full recovery within three months, though a small percentage of people need six months or longer to experience a complete recovery.

Recovering at the hospital

Once your surgery is complete, you’ll be taken off anesthesia and begin to wake up. Any pain will be treated with prescription and over-the-counter medications.

In 24 hours or less after your surgery, you’ll be asked to stand up and walk at least a little bit. A physical therapist or another helper will offer assistance. These first few steps may be difficult and feel impossible, but taking them will greatly improve the speed of your recovery.

You’ll be discharged from the hospital once your pain is under control, and you’ll be able to get in and out of bed and walk short distances using crutches or a walker.

Recovering at home

At first, you may need to use a walker, crutches, and other assistive devices to get in and out of bed and to move around. You’ll have some pain with activity and at night for several weeks following surgery, but your provider will guide you on managing this pain safely and smartly.

You should experience big improvements within a month as you gradually add household activities, such as standing more regularly and climbing stairs.

The stitches or staples will be removed several weeks after surgery at a follow-up visit. You’ll need to keep these wounds dry and banadaged as directed upon your discharge.

You’ll also need to keep up with a healthy diet, even if you’ve lost some appetite. Nutrition is essential to wound and muscle healing.

Exercise will also be essential. Movement will reduce swelling and strengthen surrounding muscles. Following surgery, you’ll be given physical therapy exercises to complete daily, and you’ll also be given a continuous passive motion machine. This machine will slowly move your leg so that it straightens and bends as you lay on your back.

How much weight you put on your new knee will depend on your type of surgery, the kind of knee you receive, and your bone health. With time and dedication to your recovery, you’ll gradually be able to put more weight on your new knee until you resume all or most of your normal activities.

Precautions you’ll need to take

In the first few weeks following surgery, you’ll need to watch for signs of infection and blood clots. In some cases, antibiotics may be recommended to reduce the chances of getting an infection. 

Blood clots can develop, especially in the first few weeks after surgery. Regularly moving around and using your new knee as directed will help prevent them from forming. Depending on your condition, you may also be given blood thinners. 

You’ll also need to be careful to avoid falls, which could lead to the need for more surgical treatment. You’ll need to follow all precautions and use assistive aids until you’ve regained strength and flexibility. However, you shouldn’t let a fear of falling keep you from being mobile. Just use caution when you are.

Recovering from knee replacement surgery does take time and effort, but the restored function and elimination of pain will be worth it. If you have debilitating pain in your knee and would like to see if a knee replacement may be able to help you, book an appointment online or call us to speak to someone at Artemis Health.

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