What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery – Recovery Overview – Sports Medicine

November 30th, 2020 Becki Andrus
What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery

It might seem like an intimidating experience to schedule a knee replacement surgery. But the truth is that this surgery is highly effective and quite common in the sports medicine industry.

Technology has come a long way in recent years, giving us access to new procedures and medical treatments that provide more remarkable results than ever.

One modern invention is knee replacement surgery: a technique that places a prosthetic in the joint to restore function.

What is Knee Replacement Surgery?

Knee replacement surgery (also commonly known as total knee replacement or knee arthroplasty) is a surgical technique to repair the knee joint. Plastic and metal prosthetic parts are attached to the bones in the knee joint. During the procedure, damaged cartilage and bone are cut away. Then an artificial joint is put in place.

This surgery might be required for someone with a severe knee injury or people who experience pain from chronic arthritis. A sports medicine doctor might recommend knee replacement surgery based on your knee’s strength, stability, and range of motion. A variety of surgical techniques and prostheses can be used, depending on your weight, age, knee size and shape, activity level, and overall health.

How Do You Know if You Need Knee Replacement Surgery?

Each patient is unique, which is why it is essential to schedule an examination and testing with an experienced sports medicine doctor. Our team will determine a diagnosis before deciding if you need to schedule a date for surgery. The preference is always to use minimally-invasive treatments first before surgery is necessary.

But there are times when surgery is required. Whether the minimally-invasive treatments aren’t working, or you’ve had a severe injury, you might need to schedule surgery to achieve the recovery you desire.

Here are some of the reasons you might need knee surgery:

  • Stiffness in the joint and pain makes it difficult to walk, stand up, or climb stairs
  • You often have swelling in the knee area
  • Chronic pain bothers you when resting
  • The pain is disrupting your sleep
  • The knee has defects or is bowed
  • Medication and physical therapy haven’t been effective in managing the pain

If you can relate to any of these symptoms, then it’s time to talk to a sports medicine doctor about your treatment options.

Who Performs Knee Replacement Surgery?

If you need knee replacement surgery, then an orthopedic surgeon is the type of doctor you must see. Here at Orthopedic Associates, we offer a range of doctors, physical therapists, and sports medicine specialists to help you manage the pain and recover as effectively as possible.

Our team offers three knee replacement surgeries:

  • Total Knee Replacement Surgery
  • Partial Knee Replacement Surgery
  • Revision Knee Replacement Surgery

Additionally, we have other joint replacement procedures for different types of sports medicine injuries and other orthopedic concerns:

  • Reverse Shoulder Joint Replacement Surgery
  • Shoulder Joint Replacement Surgery
  • Revision Hip Replacement Surgery
  • Total Hip Replacement Surgery
  • Direct Anterior Hip Replacement Surgery
  • Partial Hip Replacement Surgery

What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery?

When the surgery is over, you will need to stay in the hospital’s recovery room for observation. Usually, patients can return to their hospital rooms within a few hours after their pulse, blood pressure, and breathing are stable. Since knee replacement is major surgery, it’s common for the patient to be in the hospital for a few days before returning home. You will begin physical therapy during this in-hospital time.

When it’s time to head home, your medical team will have a transition plan to help with continued physical therapy and pain management. It’s crucial that you are diligent about following these recommendations to regain the range of motion and strength needed in the joint.

Here are a few things you can expect after knee replacement surgery:

  • Rest and Ice: The knee will be swollen and tender, which is why you need to follow doctor suggestions for keeping the leg elevated and icing the joint.
  • Medications: Not only does medication help with pain management, but it is also vital to reduce inflammation. Sometimes antibiotics are needed for preventing infection.
  • Follow Up: You will have follow-up appointments to talk to your sports medicine doctor about recovery. Surgical staples or stitches will be removed during the office visit. Reach out to your doctor if you notice unusual symptoms, such as redness, fever, incision drainage, or increased pain.
  • Home Modifications: You might need certain modifications to help you navigate your home. Since the knee needs to heal, you must use crutches. Some patients transition to a cane or walker as the recovery progresses. Consider using other modifications, such as handrails, a shower bench, a reaching stick, and removing loose cords and rugs that could cause a fall.

Recovery Timeline for Knee Surgery

The first 12 weeks after knee replacement surgery are the most critical time for rehabilitation and recovery. During this time, you need to be committed to following the doctor’s recommendations, which will help to improve your long-term prognosis.

Here is an overview of what you can expect during these 12 weeks:

  • Days 1 – 3: In the hospital, you will work with a physical therapist and occupational therapist to work on straightening and bending the knee.
  • Discharge Day: Most people are discharged from the hospital within a few days. You will be sent home with specific instructions for care, medication, and therapy.
  • Week 3: By the time you reach week three, you will be able to move around a little more, and the pain will be decreasing.
  • Weeks 4 – 6: The most noticeable improvements in your knee happen during this time if you are consistent with your rehab and exercise activities. 
  • Weeks 7 – 11: Physical therapy and rehabilitation continue. At this point, you will be working on range of motion, mobility, and strengthening the muscles.
  • Week 12: You can start to return to normal activities but still need to avoid high-impact exercise (such as aerobics, running, basketball, skiing, etc).

Beyond this initial recovery time, you will notice that the pain will continue to decrease, and your function will improve.

How Long Does the Pain Last After a Knee Replacement?

Over 90% of patients who have knee replacement surgery experience a significant improvement in their pain and mobility. But remember that this is a major surgery, which means that it takes time to recover after going under the knife.

It often takes three months to return to normal activities and six months to 1 year before your knee is strong and resilient.

Can You Overdo It After Knee Replacement Surgery?

Yes, you can damage the prosthetic joint if you don’t take time to heal during the recovery period. Follow the recommendations from your physical therapist and sports medicine doctor to avoid re-injuring your knee.

Knee Swelling After Surgery

You should expect that the knee will be swollen after surgery. Maintain consistency with icing the joint and taking anti-inflammatory medications.

Who Do I Contact in Denton or Flower Mound for Knee Replacement Surgery?

Do you need to talk to a doctor about knee replacement surgery? Then it’s time to schedule a consultation with our experienced team at Orthopedic Associates. Call us to book an exam so you can talk to a sports medicine surgeon.

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