Knowing what to expect after total knee replacement surgery can help you to prepare for your recovery and ensure you don’t try to do too much, too soon. As a general rule, partial knee replacement recovery is slightly faster.
Most people want to know how quickly they will recover and be able to get back to normal. Obviously, this will vary from person to person but here are some general guidelines:
Going back to work
How quickly you can get back to work will depend a lot on the type of work that you do. If you work from home, for example, you may be able to return to work within 10 days, however, if you work in a labour-intensive job it is more likely to be three months or more before you are back to work. Ideally, try to build up gradually to full-time working hours.
You will need to have stopped taking any medications that could impair your ability to drive before you get back behind the wheel. If your right knee was replaced, it is likely to be around four weeks before you can drive an automatic car and longer for a manual transmission.
Talk to your doctor. You need to be able to bend your knee sufficiently to be able to operate the pedals safely.
After knee surgery you will be encouraged to get up and walk around as soon as possible to build strength in your knee. You may need to use a walking frame or stick if you feel a bit unsteady.
Low impact activities like swimming or riding an exercise bike are ideal forms of exercise after about 4 weeks. You shouldn’t swim until your wound is completely healed and avoid exercise that involves squatting, lifting heavy objects, jumping or twisting.
Surgery and Dental Work
Your risk of infection is increased primarily in the first two years after having a knee replacement. If you are having surgery or dental work you may need to take antibiotics to protect yourself against infection.
It is likely to be several months before you are able to kneel down so you may need some extra help with household chores and childcare. Kneeling is more comfortable with the use of a cushion or a soft surface.
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What to Expect
Here are some of the things you might experience after total knee replacement surgery:
- Popping and clicking sounds from your new knee – this is nothing to worry about and is normal.
- Warmth around your knee – this may be due to swelling and could last a few months. For some people a feeling of mild warmth in the knee can last several years particularly after exercising.
- Stiffness in your knee – this normally subsides after a few months. It is important to follow the exercise regime set by your physiotherapist to ease any stiffness. If it becomes severe talk to your doctor as you may have developed arthrofibrosis, which is caused by the formation of excessive scar tissue after surgery.
- Bruising – this is common after surgery and should disappear completely with time. If you are taking blood thinning medication, bruising can become an ongoing problem. Talk to your doctor if this is the case.
- Weakened leg muscles – your muscles may be weak or sore after surgery. It is important to follow the exercise programme set by your physiotherapist which is designed to strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps.
Total Knee Replacement Surgery | Cambridge
Mr Andrew Carrothers is an experienced orthopaedic surgeon who has carried out numerous total knee replacements with excellent patient outcomes.
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