Knee Replacement--Frequently Asked Questions  
 
 
 
 
 
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Each patient's case is unique.  These questions and answers are general guidelines.   

 

What is the recovery process?

In general, your orthopedist will encourage you to use your new joint soon after your operation.  You may stand and begin walking the day of surgery.  Initially, you will walk with a walker or cane.

 

How long will I be in the hospital?

Depending on the type of procedure, the average stay is one to four days.  Patients eligible for a minimally invasive procedure may be in the hospital for a day.  Before you go home, you will need to meet several goals including being able to:

  • get in and out of bed by yourself
  • bend your knee about 90 degrees or show good progress in bending your knee
  • straighten your knee fully
  • walk with a walker on a level surface 
  • climb up and down two or three staris
  • perform prescribed home exercises.

 

What about pain?

Most patients will have spinal anesthesia, which may minimize pain for the first 12 to 24 hours.  Then, pain may be regulated with oral or I.V. medications.  The pain may be expected to disappear in stages beginning about two to three weeks after surgery.  After about three months, pain and twinges should disappear.  Proper pain management is important in your early recovery. Remember that it is easier to continually lessen pain than to control it after you are in pain.  If your orthopedist prescribed I.V. pain control after the first 12 to 24 hours, you may be transitioned to oral pain  medication within a day or two.

 

How long does physical therapy last?

Your orthopedic surgeon or the joint replacement staff will give you instructions about an exercise program following surgery.  The physical therapy program will vary based on the needs of each patient.  Usually a physical therapist will begin teaching you how to use your new knee on the day of surgery. You may be fitted with a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine that will slowly and smoothly straighten and bend your knee.  As you lie in bed, you can "pedal" your feet and "pump" your ankles regularly to promote blood flow in your legs.

 

Should I worry about a click in my knee?

No. the noise is normal.   About 70% of patients with knee replacement have some noise when their knee bends.

 

How will knee replacement affect arthritis in my other joints?

It should not affect any other arthritic joints. Your other knee might feel better now that the new knee can share the stress of walking.

 

What does my knee look like?

The replacement parts are made of a combination of metals placed on the thigh and shinbones. A plastic button may have been placed on the underside of the kneecap.

 

When can resume activities?

This varies, but in general patients can drive in two to three weeks, slow dance in six to eight weeks and play golf in 10 to 12 weeks after surgery.  More strenuous sports, such as tennis or running, may be discouraged.

 

How much bend should I expect in my new knee?

In total, patients should expect greater than 90 degrees of “flexion” to accommodate stair climbing or riding a bicycle.  Some patients may obtain near normal flexion.

 

When will I be able to sleep all night and will anything help me sleep?

Most patients return to their normal sleep cycle in four to 12 weeks after surgery.  Sleeping with a pillow between the knees, with the surgical knee on top, may help.  If a medication for sleep is needed, just ask.

 

How long will my knee feel hot?

Expect to feel warmth for six to 12 months after surgery. The heat is the body’s indicator that healing is occurring.

 

Is total joint replacement permanent?

Most older persons can expect their total joint replacement to last a decade or more.  Younger joint replacement patients may need a second total joint replacement.  Materials and surgical techniques are improving, so patients can generally expect advances in this field of medicine.