What to Expect after Knee Replacement Surgery

A total knee replacement (TKR) surgery falls under the category of major surgeries and recovery and rehabilitation from this procedure takes some time before you can get back on your feet unaided. After all, knees are part of your weight-bearing joints and take a lot of stress on a daily basis, especially when the ends of the long bones of the joint have undergone resurfacing with artificial materials.

The procedure usually lasts about two hours and an incision of about 6-10 inches long is made on the knee; the damaged portions of the joint surface are cut away and pieces of artificial joints (prosthesis) attached. Before closing the incision, the surgeon will check the rotation of the new joint to ensure its normal functioning. Currently, the more advanced keyhole knee replacement surgery is being adopted by some hospitals as it brings down the healing time of the outer surface wound as well as enabling earlier mobility. Earlier recovery from the surgery is crucial to rehabilitation, while also improving the chances of long-term success.

After the surgery, the patient is allowed to rest and recover for about 24 hours or so before starting the knee strengthening exercises and learning to stand on your new knees; some hospitals start this process even earlier. Actually, the earlier you start moving your joints, the better the increase of blood flow to the leg muscles, resulting in prevention of swellings and dangerous blood clots. You might need a support hose or compression boots to further reduce the chances of blood clots and swellings too.

Your physiotherapist will show you some simple base knee exercises to start with on your first day. The important thing to keep in mind always is that following your doctor’s and your physiotherapist’s instructions regarding wound healing, diet and exercise will result in timely recovery from the surgery. Recovery time is also dependent on the type of surgical procedure followed. You will be given a graduated walking program that will start off first with walking indoors on level ground, and once you are comfortable with your balance and off the walker, you will be allowed on the stairs with a walking stick for support. You will need to continue with the knee-strengthening exercises daily as part of your recovery program. However, you need to realize that it will take time before you can walk independently and free of pain, so you will need to be patient and give yourself time.

You might be able to walk free of crutches or walkers after about six weeks but it will take another six weeks before you become free of pain and pain medications, and the swellings start to settle down. It usually takes about a year for the swellings to disappear completely and for you to lead a normal life. However, it takes almost two years before the scar tissue and surrounding muscles in your new knees become fully healed. But even after recovery, you are advised to avoid sports or extreme movements that stand the risk of another injury to the knee.

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