Whether you are considering knee replacement surgery or preparing for the procedure, you need a realistic idea of what you can expect in the days afterward. Six months is the average time it takes for most patients to return to regular activities, though complete recovery takes much longer, often up to 12 months.
Any kind of surgery is a significant event. When it comes to knee replacement surgery, the more you know about how your life may change after knee replacement surgery, the better you can anticipate future needs and make the necessary adjustments, so your recovery is easier and less stressful.
What Is Knee Replacement Surgery?
Today’s knee replacement surgery is very different from similar procedures done in the past. Due to medical technology and surgical advancements, White Rock Medical Center offers both conventional procedures and minimally invasive, robotic-assisted knee replacement surgery via the ROSA knee system.
Robotic-assisted surgery patients may experience faster recoveries, less surgical trauma, pain, scarring, and time in the hospital because the procedure is minimally invasive with smaller incisions and less damage to the tissues surrounding the joint. The ROSA knee system also has a low complication rate so you can regain mobility and stability with fewer restrictions than with conventional surgery.
The procedure involves removing and replacing the damaged components of the knee and leaving healthy bone, muscle, tendon, and cartilage tissue intact.
The entire procedure can take a couple of hours, though some patients spend less time in the operating room, depending on the amount of work necessary. Immediately after the procedure, patients go home to start their recovery.
Benefits of Knee Replacement Surgery
Knee replacement surgery enjoys a near-perfect satisfaction rate from those who have undergone the procedure. This is because, for most people, life changes in many positive ways after knee replacement.
Most people who are candidates for knee replacement surgery first realized they needed to see a doctor because of pain. People may experience chronic pain that comes and goes, unrelenting pain, and aches that don’t get better with pain relief medication. Some people experience pain only with mobility, like when walking, running, standing for long periods of time, or during exercise. While other people may experience knee pain even at rest. While knee replacement isn’t a permanent cure for arthritis, many people who have the procedure find near immediate relief from the pain they experienced before surgery.
Improved mobility is another good outcome experienced by many people who have knee replacement surgery. The knee joint is so important to movement that people who are experiencing even moderate knee pain can end up having significantly decreased mobility, even finding it difficult to walk short distances or perform everyday tasks. After knee replacement surgery, many people find that the pain relief is so effective that they are able to resume activities and mobility that they had been missing due to knee pain.
After Surgery: Rest and Exercise
Your first thought may be to rest your legs and avoid moving around too much, but after knee replacement surgery, movement is exactly what’s needed. After surgery, you should rest when necessary but get up and walk around as often as possible to help reduce stiffness and inflammation in their knee joints. Failure to move the muscles and knee joint sufficiently can increase inflammation and cause the knee to become stiffer and harder to move. Movement helps keep the blood flowing and prevents the joint from seizing or locking up.
You should avoid high-impact activities and movements for two to three months. During this time, the knee joint is weak and has yet to regain its function and strength. The area is quite sensitive and extremely vulnerable to accidental injury and trauma, which can compromise the procedure’s outcome and overall knee health and mobility.
Because movement is an essential part of the knee replacement recovery process, patients can engage in light to moderate activities and functions as their comfort level and knee-leg strength increase. Swimming is beneficial for knee replacement surgery. However, patients should refrain until their surgical wounds are healed and their medical care team says it’s safe.
Walking on level and non-slippery surfaces is acceptable and highly recommended. The first few weeks of recovery are when the new knee is weakest, and the risk of damage or complications is highest. The muscles in the leg are also weak from the procedure, and joint/limb instability is high. Accidents and injuries are very common, which is why extreme caution and extra care are necessary.
Patients should avoid activities and movements that stress or jar the knee joint and legs. Weights and other heavy items should not be placed on the knee. Lifting heavy objects should be avoided.
Immediately after surgery, it’s recommended to wear light, soft clothing that’s loose and comfortable is advised to allow for sufficient movement and comfort during recovery. The surgical wound will be sensitive for some time. Sunscreen and protective clothing are recommended for certain environments and outdoors.
Driving and Getting Around
Driving is not advised immediately after knee replacement surgery and for several weeks afterward. Due to the procedure, stiffness, pain, and post-operative pain medications, proper movement and flexibility of the knee joint, leg, and foot are not possible for several weeks, making driving difficult and highly unsafe. You should work with your doctor to develop a realistic and safe timeline for when you can resume driving. Also, many auto insurance policies exclude drivers who undergo specific medical procedures or surgeries without medical clearance. To avoid issues with transportation and getting around, you should have a trusted friend or family member transport you or use third-party transportation.
Work, Household, and Normal Activities
You may be eager to resume regular work and daily activities. Caution is heavily advised to avoid additional injury to the repaired knee joint or complications that can delay complete recovery or impair outcome. You should be able to return to work or resume your household duties within two to three weeks; but sometimes it can take longer. Everyone’s recovery is different. It’s important to pace yourself throughout recovery to avoid impediments.
It’s required to undergo physical therapy or rehab to learn exercises and undergo monitoring to ensure your knee is healing properly. Some people may need assistive walking aids to allow them to move around during the first few weeks of recovery. As time progresses, your knee strength returns, and with the guidance of a physical therapist, you gradually become less dependent on walking aids. You can move around on your own unassisted. Physical therapy is also necessary to ensure the knee joint is healing as expected and to detect potential issues early on for correction.
Knee replacement surgery can increase the overall risk of infection for up to two years. Patients are encouraged to develop healthy behaviors and make lifestyle adjustments to avoid infections and illnesses. Some knee replacement patients have underlying health concerns, such as arthritis or diabetes, that place them at an even higher risk of infection. Treatment adherence is necessary. Patients should take additional considerations to alleviate their vulnerability to infections after knee replacement surgery, such as informing all dental and medical care providers of their status so they can receive additional therapeutics to help strengthen their body’s defenses before future medical and dental procedures. Also, good dietary and lifestyle modifications are beneficial.
Regain Mobility and Change Your Life With Knee Replacement Surgery
Life gets much better after knee replacement surgery. Ask us how! White Rock Medical Center is equipped with state-of-the-art medical and surgical technologies that rival all other major hospital systems. We’re the only medical provider in the East Dallas community with the ROSA knee system.
To learn more about knee replacement surgery, contact the WRMC orthopedics team today.