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: MommaJean, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 21

I'm 6 weeks plus 1 day post operation for total knee replacement. I've progressed better than I thought I would. I walk without mobility aids now. I'm a nurse, so going back to work will have to wait a while longer. I have a problem that I haven't seen addressed here. The skin over my kneecap feels adhered to my kneecap. I've kept it lotioned and moisturized thinking maybe the skin was just tight and needed to stretch. But, if I try to manually move the skin, it won't move. This is what makes it difficult to do my bending exercises. I wonder if anyone else has this problem and if so, what was done to correct it.

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Comment from: Ouch, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: June 28

I had knee replacement surgery almost a year ago. I was doing really well until it was sadly discovered my husband had cancer. Caregiving was very hard. Friends and family disappeared. I had no help except from our son when he was able as he travels. My husband is in remission right now. My knee is now agonizing and it's difficult to walk even with a walker. The problem is no one believes me. My former surgeon did x-rays and said all looked well. Yet the pain persists. Even my husband gets upset with me and gets upset if I use a wheel chair. I can't stand the pain medicines yet have been accused of wanting them. I just bear the pain the best I can. I do exercises but they are excruciating. Still, I do them. I had a hip replacement almost three years ago that has gone well, but not the knee replacement.

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