Total Knee Replacement - Recovery

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What happens in the postoperative period?

A total knee replacement generally requires between one and a half to three hours of operative time. After surgery, patients are taken to a recovery room, where vital organs are frequently monitored. When stabilized, patients are returned to their hospital room.

Passage of urine can be difficult in the immediate postoperative period, and this condition can be aggravated by pain medications. A catheter inserted into the urethra (a Foley catheter) allows free passage of urine until the patient becomes more mobile.

Physical therapy is an extremely important part of rehabilitation and requires full participation by the patient for optimal outcome. Patients can begin physical therapy 48 hours after surgery. Some degree of pain, discomfort, and stiffness can be expected during the early days of physical therapy. Knee immobilizers are used in order to stabilize the knee while undergoing physical therapy, walking, and sleeping. They may be removed under the guidance of the therapist for various portions of physical therapy.

A unique device that can help speed recovery is the continuous passive motion (CPM) machine. The CPM machine is first attached to the operated leg. The machine then constantly moves the knee through various degrees of range of motion for hours while the patient relaxes.

Patients will start walking using a walker and crutches. Eventually, patients will learn to walk up and down stairs and grades. A number of home exercises are given to strengthen thigh and calf muscles.

Return to Total Knee Replacement

See what others are saying

Comment from: Debi, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: September 23

I am so disappointed after almost 9 months after total knee replacement surgery. It has hurt daily since surgery. Surgery, post-surgery, and therapy went well but I never got better. X-rays show no problem and doctor has no idea what is wrong. Neither do I, it is no better than before. I am terrified it will not get better!

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Comment from: susie, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: September 29

I had total knee replacement on August 10 2015. I had deep vein thrombosis 1 week after surgery followed by acute pharyngitis, then urinary tract infection. I had low grade temperature and flu like symptoms for 6 weeks. I would never do replacement of other knee now. It has been a horrible time. I am also anemic and have so much GERD since surgery in spite of Nexium, Zantac, and Mylanta liquid in between. I can't take iron, etc. I now have swelling above my knee for the past 2 days with increased severity of pain. I can only take Tylenol (stopped all narcotics 2 weeks ago) and it doesn't help!

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