Knee Replacement Surgery: Common Questions Answered

After a knee replacement, you may have many questions about knee replacement recovery. The following will answer common questions and concerns:

Post-Surgery Risks

As with any surgery, there are risks. Particularly after knee replacement surgery, there are not too many risks. About one in 20 cases experience complications after knee replacement surgery, but they are generally minor. Common risks are:

  • Infection—About one in every 100 cases will get infected. If the replacement gets infected, your surgeon will remove the infected tissue and thoroughly clean the implant. You will be put on intravenous antibiotics for six weeks.
  • Blood clots—For the first two to 10 days, you will be at the highest risk for DVT blood clots. However, with blood-thinning medications and proper physical therapy, you should be able to avoid them.
  • Excess scar tissue—After knee replacement surgery, you may develop excess scar tissue. This can be avoided by doing physical therapy.
  • Allergic reaction—Some patients may be allergic to metal implants or bone cement if used in the surgery. Symptoms include:
    • Fever
    • Skin Rash
    • Discoloration
    • Joint pain
    • Swelling
    • Joint Stiffness

How Long to Recover From Knee Replacement?

The recovery time for knee replacement surgery will vary depending on each patient. Typically, it takes about three months to return to most activities. You can expect another six months to a year until you meet a full knee replacement recovery. Make sure to follow the instructions of your doctor for optimal recovery.

A woman sitting on a therapy table receives physical therapy from a PT to strengthen her knee after knee replacement surgery.

When Can I Go Home?

For most patients, their hospital visits will not be that long. After knee replacement surgery, you can expect to be released from the hospital within 24 hours. Outpatient/same-day surgery may be an option for select patients. You should discuss with your surgeon to find out if this is the right option for you.

When Can I Walk?

Using assisted devices such as walkers, crutches, or canes, you can more than likely start walking immediately after surgery. Walking on your own without assisted devices will take approximately three weeks.

When Can I Shower?

It is common for surgeons to recommend wrapping your knee for five to seven days after surgery. That said, waterproof dressings are becoming popular, allowing patients to shower the days after surgery. Talk with your doctor about what he or she recommends.

When Can I Drive?

The answer to this question depends on which leg you had your surgery on or the type of car you drive. If you had surgery on your left leg and drive an automatic vehicle, you can return to driving as soon as you feel comfortable. However, if you had surgery on your right knee, the timeline may differ. Typically, anywhere from two to six weeks into your knee replacement recovery is when you should be able to drive. Be sure to check with your doctor for his or her recommendation. In all circumstances, there should be no driving while on narcotic pain medication.

When Can I Go Back to Work?

Depending on your line of work will determine when you can get back to your job. If you have an office job or a remote position, you can return to work when you feel comfortable. If you have a job that requires a higher physical demand such as manual labor, it may take three months before you can get back to work after knee replacement surgery.

Will I Need Physical Therapy?

Yes. Physical therapy is an integral part of your recovery. Strengthening your knee and the muscle around your prosthesis will increase the time for a full recovery. Physical therapy will last from four to eight weeks, with seeing a specialist two to three times each week.

Will I Be Able to Walk Up My Stairs?

Though accompanied by assisted devices, you should be able to go up and down your stairs. Before being discharged from the hospital, you will be guided by a doctor or physical therapist to see how you can maneuver the steps. When going up the steps, you should lead with your leg that did not receive surgery. When descending, lead with the leg that had the replacement.

Can I Travel?

Once comfortable, you can travel by car when you feel it is necessary. If taking long trips, be sure to stop every hour or so to stretch your leg. If flying, your doctor may suggest waiting six weeks until you travel through the air. Long travels without moving your leg can lead to a greater chance of blood clots.

How Long Will My Prosthesis Last?

Most knee replacements will last approximately 15 years, if not more. After a few years, if you feel any pain, you may need revision surgery. Revision surgery will replace loose, dislocated, infected, or recalled implants.

How Town Center Orthopaedics Can Help

The board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Town Center Orthopaedics provide cutting-edge surgery for the care you need for your knee replacement and knee replacement recovery. Request an appointment with one of our surgeons today! 

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