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: Mamaw, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: July 27

Six weeks ago to the day I had total knee replacement on left leg. This past Friday I was allowed to put full foot on floor. The doctor broke my femur during surgery. I have to endure extra pain and recovery time because of this. I had walked on toes for over 5 weeks. I am not allowed to do anything. The doctor said Friday I may need a manipulation because of range of motion (ROM). I was at 118 yesterday. Of course it varies each day. Therapists are really trying to get me at full ROM. So am I. I have until 8/12 to get full range back. I go to rehabilitation 3 times a week and this is my 4th week.

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Comment from: Peggy, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: July 28

I am 5 weeks post operation for total knee replacement. I am doing much better, driving at 2 weeks, released to do anything I want. I am having outpatient physical therapy to help get my knee bend to be where it should be, but it is still swollen and painful when I do the knee bends. I can't understand why the surgeon did not talk to me about the bruising, swelling and pain especially at night; even the cold pack's pressure hurt my knee. And when I try to elevate that leg it hurts more. Opioids did little for pain. It was excruciating. I had no idea it would be that bad. I know that they are rough in surgery to make sure the new knee works. I just wish that the surgeons are more open and talk to us. We are human, this is our body that they are manhandling while we are out. Please talk to your surgeon and try to have him explain it all step by step. I learned the hard way, no more; I am proactive in my care from now on.

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