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: GrannyJudy, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: May 09

I did a lot of research on total knee replacement (TKR) last year when the injury to my right knee finally got the best of me. I found out about a new technique called "minimally invasive knee replacement" surgery and found a doctor in my area who did it. I am confident that my surgery went well and that I will someday feel strong again. For 4 years I had been doing yoga most days so I was strong, slim and had a lot of stamina. Then I joined a gym in January so I"d be as strong as possible before surgery, because the injury had weakened my right leg for over 2 years. The surgery was 4/1/14 and I was up that evening, on crutches for a couple of weeks, then one crutch and have been on my own since 4/28. Pain is the problem for me. I feel burning, stabbing pain in my knee that makes it almost impossible to do my exercises and it is worse now than it was a couple of weeks ago. My instinct says that I must continue to gain strength so that my muscles can support my knee. I am awakened by pain every 3 to 4 hours so I have to get up to take medicines. I"m switching from hydrocodone to ibuprofen but at night I still need the hydrocodone or I can"t sleep more than 1 to 2 hrs. I am depressed about this and just let myself cry through my exercises to release my emotions, since it is really sad to feel this bad. Still if I had known how painful and difficult it would be I would have chosen to have the surgery on the chance that I will be able to be active again because the injury had crippled me for life. Now I believe I will get stronger and reclaim my yoga, and my life.

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Comment from: randerss, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: May 09

I had a total knee replacement (TKR) on 02 April, 14. Surgery on Wednesday morning went well, weight bearing on Thursday there was pain and movement was very good. It was 0 degrees on Saturday morning and I was released from hospital lunch time and was home feeling excellent. Having home physiotherapy also is going well. At 3 1/2 weeks my knee is bending at 130 degrees, physiotherapy is wrapped. I still have some pain and it gets stiff at night. I am moving around home unassisted but do take 1 crutch when I go out. I believe I had one of the best medical care available. Thanking the doctor and hospital staff.

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