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Knee Replacement Surgery: Recovery

In the first portion of this two-part blog series about knee replacement surgery, we discussed the topic of surgery preparation. This included learning about the requirements for knee replacement surgery, information about the actual procedure, and why it’s important to be both mentally and physically prepared prior to surgery.

Today, we are going to cover the recovery phase and what to expect during this part of the process.

Rehabilitation is just as important as the preparation portion, because it will help you heal from surgery faster, improve your chances for long-term success and help you get back to your normal life as soon as possible.

Typically after surgery, you will remain in the hospital for about three to four days. The time period depends on your recovery. Though you will experience some pain, you will be given medication in an effort to curb these effects.

Physical therapy is an integral piece of the recovery puzzle. Approximately 24-48 hours after surgery, you will begin working with a physical therapist who will instruct you on exercises that will help you regain complete leg and knee movement.

Though you will most likely experience discomfort and stiffness the early days post-surgery, knee immobilizers will be used to stabilize the knee while you undergo physical therapy.

Additionally, a unique device is commonly used to help speed the recovery process. This device, known as the continuous passive motion (CPM) machine, is attached to the leg on which the surgery was performed.

This machine is used to keep your knee in constant motion, and moves the leg through various degrees of range of motion for hours, all while you relax. A CPM machine is particularly important because it can improve circulation as well as minimize the scar tissue around the knee.

The recovery process does not stop at the hospital. For an optimal outcome it’s important that you continue your physical therapy program as well as your exercises at home after you are discharged. Some of the exercises that you’ll be instructed to do at home are designed to strengthen the muscles around the replaced knee joint to help prevent scarring and maintain joint stability, and will play a critical role in your recovery.

In an effort to avoid infection, you will more than likely be prescribed antibiotics before, during and after your procedure. However, you should still pay close attention to the warning signs of infection. These signs can include abnormal redness, swelling, unusual pain and warmth around the surgery location. If any or all of these symptoms should occur, contact your surgeon immediately.

Once you’ve fully recovered from your surgery and have undergone physical therapy, you will be able to participate in a variety of low-impact activities like biking, golfing, swimming and walking. It’s important to note that you should still avoid high-impact activities like tennis, skiing, jogging and other activities that involve contact and/or jumping.

In most cases, people are able to resume most of their normal daily activities, including shopping or some light household chores, four to six weeks after the procedure.

Most people experience a significant reduction in pain, improvement in mobility and a better quality of life after knee replacement surgery.

As you’re preparing for knee replacement surgery, contact your doctor if you have any questions about the recovery phase or the limitations that you will experience after your operation.

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/knee-replacement/basics/results/prc-20019202

http://www.medicinenet.com/total_knee_replacement/page4.htm#what_happens_in_the_postoperative_period_what_is_involved_in_the_recovery_from_surgery

http://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/recovering_from_knee_replacement_surgery/

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