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: Steph-STAPH, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: April 01

I had my total knee replacement on my left leg done in January 2009. The surgery did not go well. I had a prior injury to the tibia and consulted with the surgeons beforehand and they assured me that would not be a problem. Well, when they went to drill the bone to set the joint, they drilled through the bone instead of making the hollow. The bone split. They used cadaver bone and glue to patch the hole and waited two hours for it to set before drilling the hollow a second time. This time they inserted the knee, a slightly larger one than I would have needed before the drilling incident. After surgery I was off my feet, no weight bearing for 6 weeks. I had a spot in the stitching that did not close well and soon became a little deeper than a half inch that was oozy. Doctor had me use gauze and sterile water, packing and pulling until it healed. No antibiotics during this process. Finally, therapy seemed to go okay, but I continued to have pain in the knee and down in the leg. I had to use a cane, very painful. Now 2014, 6 weeks ago it finally gave, pain was unbearable. At the emergency room they drained the fluid from the knee and got 2 1/2 cups of fluid. Culture proved to be a staph infection. I was rushed to surgery and they found the worst infection my surgeon had seen. He has removed the knee at this point and for the last 6 weeks I have been on a PICC line IV antibiotics around the clock. I'll find out on Tuesday if we can discontinue the antibiotics or go another 3 to 6 weeks, then schedule knee replacement for May or June. In addition when he opened the leg, the tibia had broken away from the knee, explaining why I was falling so often. He also found that in an effort to get the patella to lay down, they had cut the edges and it had floated off the cap down into the leg. This was/is a nightmare. Now I think I should consult a lawyer, but don"t know if I really should pursue.

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Comment from: leep, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: April 14

I am 41 years old and had my left knee replaced 2 months ago. After 3 years of injections in the knee, and pain and no cartilage left, I decided to take the doctor's advice and have the surgery. Well, at 2 months out, I feel it is horrible. I live in severe pain day and night. Medicines take the edge off very little. I try to tell my doctor but he, I guess, thinks it's all in my head. I am still using a cane and when I try to walk without it, it is horrible. This is mentally starting to affect me due to the pain and not functioning the way I should be. I"m supposed to go back to work soon and I can"t go 20 minutes up without having to prop my leg from the pain.

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