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After Your Knee Surgery

Knee Postoperative Care

The postoperative process begins directly after your surgery when you are transported to the recovery room. CORE Orthopedics and Sports Medicine professionals will keep a close watch on your vital signs and circulation. When you awaken, nurses will help reorient you to your situation and make sure you are stabilized before we move you to your hospital room.

When you arrive at your room and regain alertness, you might notice the following unfamiliar things attached to your body:

  • • A large dressing, like gauze, is applied to your incision to keep the area clean and absorb leaking fluid
  • • An IV that allows you to receive fluids until you are eating and drinking on your own
  • • Occasionally, a catheter may need to be placed based on your response to anesthesia
  • • Elastic hose and/or a compression stocking sleeve to minimize the risks of clotting
  • • A knee immobilizer will be used for extra protection until the second day

Depending on the state of your overall health and your individual response to recovery, you’ll most likely be in the hospital for 2-3 days to monitor your pain and knee strength. You will either have an outpatient knee replacement in which you will recover at home, where a therapist will come to the house for 1-2 weeks. Or you will have an at hospital stay. You’ll likely be prescribed pain pills and have a consultation with a physical therapist in the first day after surgery.

You will be released to go home with a specific and detailed set of individualized recovery instructions. Much of the success of your knee replacement surgery will depend on your participation in following these instructions correctly. You shouldn’t bathe or soak the surgical wounds for the first six weeks after surgery, and you should always keep the area clean and dry to promote healing.

It’s important to note that pain, swelling, and low-grade fever are common and normal for the first few weeks after surgery. They will subside as the healing process progresses. To minimize swelling and maximize comfort, we recommend that you elevate your knee for 30-60 minutes each day.

In the months following surgery, you’ll have follow-up appointments and physical therapy appointments to schedule and attend regularly to ensure your recovery continues to go according to plan. Your doctor may also suggest a dietary plan and a period of time with a walker and/or crutches.

Preventing Complications

For the most part, knee replacement surgery is extremely safe and effective — in fact, the surgeons at CORE Orthopedics and Sports Medicine have performed most knee replacement surgeries without complications. However, it’s important to remember that we are talking about major surgery, and complications can occur in a small percentage of patients.

Educating yourself is the first step in proper preparation to prevent complications — check out the below list of potential issues you may face and the steps you can take to minimize their occurrence:

Thrombophlebitis

  • Occurs when large veins of the leg form blood clots
  • • In some instances, these clots become lodged in the capillaries of the lung and cause pulmonary embolism
  • Also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Preventative measures include blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants), elastic stockings, and foot/ankle exercises that increase blood flow in the leg
  • Compression stockings

Infection

Even when great care is taken to prevent infections before, during, and after surgery, they sometimes still occur in a small percentage of patients. Symptoms include pain or stiffness, swelling, warmth, and redness around the wound, foul odor, increased drainage, fever, and fatigue.

*Make sure to report any of these immediately to your doctor

To prevent infection, take antibiotics as directed, complete the recommended dosage duration, and strictly follow the incision care guidelines your surgeon recommends

Pneumonia

Can be caused during surgery as a result of the anesthesia, which makes your lungs “lazy” and leads to secretion buildup at the base of your lungs. Preventative measures include practicing deep breathing exercises and using an incentive spirometer for visual feedback while you breathe.

Knee stiffness

After surgery, your knee mobility might be restricted to the point where you develop a contracture in the joint. Symptoms of a contracture include significant stiffness during walking or other daily activities you may perform.

To prevent knee stiffness and maximize your range of motion you should:

  • Begin your physical therapy program early (day one or two) to start working on your range of motion exercises
  • Use ice, compression stockings, and elevation to control edema and reduce swelling
  • Control pain adequately so you can tolerate the rehabilitation regime

IMPORTANT: This information is not intended to replace medical advice. Make sure you discuss proper preventative care plans with your physician. As always, if you develop swelling, redness, pain, and/or tenderness in the calf muscle after surgery, report these symptoms to your orthopedic surgeon or internist immediately.

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