Knee Replacement

Having Surgery

Having knee replacement usually requires a hospital stay of three to five days. During that time, you will have the surgery and begin recovery and rehabilitation. You will also learn about possible complications, including how to prevent them and recognize them if they occur.

You will most likely be admitted to the hospital on the day of your surgery. Before you are admitted, however, you will see an anesthesiologist, who will evaluate your general health and talk with you about the types of anesthesia, or pain relief, that will be used during surgery.

Two Types of Anesthesia

Two common types of anesthesia for knee replacement are

  • general anesthesia, which keeps you asleep during surgery while a machine helps you breathe
  • spinal anesthesia, which numbs you only from the waist down.

Regardless of the method used, the surgery itself will not be painful.

What To Expect After Surgery

Knee replacement surgery usually takes one to two hours. After surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room where you will be monitored for an hour or two. Once you are fully awake and alert, you will be moved to a hospital room for the rest of your stay.

You may have an intravenous (IV) tube inserted to replace any fluids you lost during surgery. You may also have a tube near the incision to drain fluid and a tube called a catheter to drain urine until you are able to go to the bathroom. In addition, you will receive medicine to relieve pain.

The surgery site will be closed with staples or stitches, which will be removed a few weeks after surgery. In the meantime, it will be important to avoid getting the wound wet as it heals. A bandage can help prevent clothing or stockings from irritating the wound.

Shortly after surgery, a respiratory therapist may visit you and ask you to breathe deeply, cough, or blow into a device to measure your lung capacity. Doing these things will help reduce fluid in your lungs.

Physical Therapy

The day after surgery, a physical therapist will begin to teach you exercises to help your recovery. You can expect some pain, discomfort, and stiffness as you begin therapy, but to get the best results from your new knee, it is important to do all of the exercises your physical therapist recommends.

Your physical therapist may also use a device called a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine to help speed your recovery. This machine cradles your leg and slowly bends and straightens your knee while you relax. For some people, this may keep the knee from getting stiff and increase its range of motion.

A day or two after surgery, you will be allowed to sit on the edge of the bed and stand and walk. You will begin walking with help, using a walker or crutches. Eventually you will be able to walk on flat surfaces, climb stairs, and return to normal activities without help.