Total Knee Replacement

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideSlideshow: Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

Slideshow: Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

What happens in the postoperative period? What is involved in the recovery from surgery?

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. This can help to improve circulation and minimize the risk of scarring and contracture of the tissues around the knee.

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.

Reviewed on 10/28/2015
References
Medically reviewed by Aimee V. HachigianGould, MD; American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery

REFERENCE:

Klippel, John H., eds., et al. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. 13th ed. New York: Springer and Arthritis Foundation, 2008.

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