What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery

If your doctor has recommended you undergo knee replacement surgery, you may be wondering what to expect after the operation. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports 90 percent of patients that have knee replacement surgery experience a dramatic improvement in their activity levels and a significant reduction in pain. It is one of the most successful orthopedic surgeries performed today.

What is Involved in the Surgery?
During surgery your doctor will replace the knee joint with a mechanical implant. This surgery is known as a total knee replacement (TKR), or a total knee arthroplasty (TKA). The joint of the knee is removed, the bones are prepared for the implant, and the implant is then placed. This surgery is done under general anesthesia and can last several hours. As with all major surgery it does carry some risk, but your doctor will discuss your risks before you make the decision to have the surgery.
Success rates are very high for TKR, and it is considered safe and effective. Most patients are between the ages of 50 and 70, and over 50 percent are women. Many studies have shown that TKR remains effective for over 10 years which means this surgery can give you long term relief from knee pain due to osteoarthritis and other degenerative conditions.

Right After Surgery
Your recovery begins right after surgery. You will be up and walking with the aid of a device such as a walker or crutches within 24 hours. This is so that you can start to use your new knee right away and speed the healing process. You will work with a physical therapist in the hospital and receive pain medications. You may use a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine in the hospital and you may have one for home use after your discharge. This machine moves and flexes your knee joint to help to improve mobility and circulation. If used soon after surgery it discourages the development of scar tissue which prevents stiffness.
Week 2 and Beyond
When you are discharged from the hospital you should be able to move around fairly easily. You may or may not still need crutches, and you should be experiencing much less pain. Your physical therapist will prescribe exercises and activities for you to do to strength your knee. These are to achieve the following goals:
  • Increase the strength of your knee through a set exercise and walking regimen
  • Reduce swelling and inflammation
  • Increase your range of motion so that you can walk up and down stairs
  • Return to everyday activities
By week 12 you should be able to perform most activities without pain. The key to this is to keep up with your physical therapy. Physical therapy is a key component, if not the most important factor, to your recovery. The exercises and activities prescribed by your therapist will strengthen the muscles and tissues around your knee and increase flexibility.
Knee replacement surgery has a high success rate, but it will only be a complete success if you keep up on your physical therapy. Most patients get over 10 years of relief from TKR. If you are experiencing knee pain, talk to your doctor about your treatment options. If he or she recommends TKR know that it is a safe and effective surgery, and the success rate is very high.