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19th May 2020

Recovery after Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee replacement, also known as knee arthroplasty (knee surfacing), is a surgical procedure to replace the weight-bearing surfaces of the diseased knee with an artificial man-made joint to relieve pain and disability. Knee replacement surgery restores the knee joints restoring mobility and removing pain and stiffness experiences without the surgery. Those who have damaged or degenerated knees due to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or post-traumatic arthritis when an injury has damaged the knee are the ones who need replacement knee surgery.

Most patients undergoing total knee replacement (total knee arthroplasty) are 50 and older but it’s not uncommon in the younger population as well as total knee arthroplasty is performed successfully at all ages, from the young to the elderly with degenerative arthritis. Decisions and recommendations for the surgery are based on a patient’s pain and disability. The decision to have total knee replacement surgery should be made keeping in mind, your will and consulting between your family, family physician, and your orthopaedic surgeon. After a thorough evaluation, an orthopaedic surgeon will determine how you get to benefit from this surgery.

Types of Knee replacement surgery

The types of knee replacement surgery include- Total Knee Replacement (Total knee arthroplasty) Surgery in which both of your knee joints are replaced, Partial Knee Replacement (Unicondylar Knee Replacement) Surgery in which only one of your knee joints is replaced in a smaller operation with a shorter hospital stay and recovery period, Kneecap replacement (patellofemoral arthroplasty) and Complex or revision knee replacement. The type of surgery required will be decided by your orthopaedic surgeon after taking into account your condition.

Recovering from a total knee arthroplasty or knee replacement and managing the post-operative pain is done with many aids like self-administered analgesics. Recovery begins right after the surgery with managing to stand and walk on the first day and to be able to do daily activities at home after discharge. The average duration of hospital stay is generally 5-8 days but can vary from person to person. Walkers or crutches are generally required for ease of movement and subsequently, physiotherapy is also essential for a smooth and quick recovery. It takes about 3 weeks to 3 months for the knee to recover to a point where one is back to full activity and about a year for absolute recovery to occur.

During recovery after total knee arthroplasty, it’s necessary for the patient to try and progressively remain active.

How long should you stay awake?

The staff mostly support you to get up and walk as fast as you can. But if you have had a keyhole surgery or an enhanced recovery programme then it can be difficult walking on the same as the operation. Mostly, you can stand in 12 to 24 hours after your surgery.

The doctors/nurses would give a frame or a crutch to help you walk. Most people are able to walk easily using sticks after about a week.

While you are staying at the hospital, the physiotherapist is most likely to teach you some exercise to improve and strengthen the knee. Try to learn them as they begin instantly after the surgery. Once you follow the physiotherapist advice to avoid potential risk or dislocation in your new joints, you are good to go.

It’s perfectly common to experience initial discomfort and pain while walking and exercising. Your legs and feet may get swollen so don’t try to intensify but continue to exercise regularly.

A passive motion machine is used on patients to restore movement in the knee and the leg. It helps to support your legs to slowly move the knees while you are in your bed. It also helps to reduce swelling by raising the legs high and improving the blood circulation.

Living with knee replacement surgery

Knee replacement can increasingly improve functions in your body, but it can also cause a set of new restrictions. It can make you not be able to perform the activities you took part in before the onset of arthritis.

A replacement knee can feel different to adjust with at the initial stage. A study showed that most people report being aware of their new knees before 12 months of the surgery. You can experience the difference in the knee compared to the natural legs by climbing stairs, rising from the chair or kneeling. More than half of the people report in common symptoms such as swelling, crackling, numbness or stiffness.

These symptoms continue to remain even when the knee starts to function better and the knee pain is reduced. These symptoms don’t mean that knee replacement surgery was unsuccessful or ineffective.

How long does a knee replacement last?

Going through surgery and knowing how long it can last brings relief. The good knees are that about 90% of first-time knee replacements last for minimum 15 years while others at least for 20 years.

Patients can increase the life expectancy of their knee replacement by sticking to their physical therapy routines and eliminating high-impact activities, such as jogging or jumping. Rigorous activity creates friction between the man-made components that the replacement knee is made of, causing wear and tear.

Revision Knee replacement surgery

If the prior knee replacement component doesn’t work for a longer time then it must be replaced to avoid any physical problem. You can opt for a second surgery known as revision total knee replacement which becomes essential if the initial surgery fails to prove effective.

The wear-and-tear on components, infection, component loosening and knee joint problems are the most common cause for revision surgery. Other reasons are mostly knee stiffness and bone fractures.

How to look after your new knees?

The new normal might be difficult for you to adapt. Here’s what to do to properly adjust to your new knees –

Regularly take your prescribed painkillers or anti-inflammatories to reduce any pain or swelling felt in the body.

Use your walking aids but try to rely less on them with time and walk on your own for improving the condition.

Continue to keep up with your health exercise to get rid of stiffness and other problems, but don’t put great force on the knees.

Do not sit while your leg crossed for the first six weeks after your surgery. It can cause dislocation. Limit your sitting position.

Avoid using a pillow underneath the knee while sleeping. It can result in permanent knee bend.

Lift your leg while sitting or applying an ice pack covered in a tea towel for 20 minutes after every 3 to 4 hours to decrease any swelling.

  • Try to avoid twisting at your knee.
  • Always wear supportive footwear outdoors.
  • Avoid kneeling on your operated knee in the first 6 months after the surgery.

In the period of initial healing, the patient may constantly require assistance for their movement and the need for a caretaker becomes essential.

From their daily walks, adequate physiotherapy, Emoha Care Angels (nurses) ensure that they get the best quality care for a speedy recovery. Emoha Elder Care offers comprehensive post-surgical care for your elderly. Apart from taking care of their physical health, Emoha also offers engagement services and activities specially curated for the elderly. After all, happiness ought to cause a faster recovery.