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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
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
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
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