What to Expect Before and After Knee Replacement Surgery
When you and your orthopedic surgeon have made the decision that knee replacement surgery is right for you, you will be supported by a full team of health care professionals who will guide you through each step of surgery.
Once you and your orthopedic surgeon have decided that knee replacement surgery is right for you, you will meet the team of health care professionals who will participate in your care and guide you through the recovery process. Together you and your health care team will work toward regaining your ability to walk and take care of yourself again.
You will be instructed to do some "prehabilitation," which consists of stretching, strength training and exercises. In some cases, formal physical therapy may be recommended. Our replacement program aims to get you as healthy as possible, and that begins prior to surgery. The better shape you are in before your procedure, the more quickly your body may be able to recover.
It is very important that you have someone to assist you through your surgery and recovery. Your "coach" can be a family member or a friend who is able to:
- Attend the preoperative evaluation with you
- Attend some therapy sessions with you while in the hospital
- Attend a training session for discharge needs
- Stay with you at home the first week after discharge
You will complete a thorough pre-operative evaluation to ensure you will have a successful procedure and that you're armed with all the tools you'll need pre- and post-surgery. This evaluation will include your medical history, diagnostic testing, special breathing instructions, pain management education, functional assessment, anesthesia planning, care coordination and more.
After your surgery, you may stay in the hospital 1-2 days, depending on how quickly you progress. Many patients are able to go home the day of surgery without an overnight stay in the hospital. Your work toward recovery begins right after surgery. It is a busy day, but members of your health care team will work with you toward the goal of walking comfortably again.
Your team will encourage you to use pain medication so you can comfortably participate in recovery activities. You will use an incentive spirometer to encourage deep breathing. A physical therapist will assist you in getting out of bed, sitting, and walking a short distance. You will begin specific motion exercises to help regain the ability to bend your knee. And an occupational therapist will show you how to use special assistive devices to help with bathing and dressing yourself, allowing you to become more independent.
Your personal case manager will visit you and your coach while you are in the hospital to identify your needs upon discharge. She will discuss your therapy and personal care needs in addition to any necessary equipment you may need while continuing your recovery at home.
When you're ready to be discharged to begin your recovery process at home, you and your coach will be given thorough education, including safety tips, protecting your joint, preventing complications, when to call your doctor, pain management, exercise advice and more. Exercising is strongly encouraged following surgery. You should get about 30 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercise at least three times a week. Walking, biking and swimming are all examples of appropriate exercise for a joint replacement patient.
View our Total Joint Replacement: Enhanced Recovery After Surgery booklet.