How Long Does It Take to Recover from Knee Surgery?
The knee is one of the hardest working joints in the entire body. This one point of the leg supports the bulk of your body weight, must repeatedly flex to accommodate your movements or stance, and can take a lot of stress over the years. Knee replacement surgery is one of the most frequently performed surgeries in the country, with as many as 790,000 performed every year.
The majority of people who have this surgery see improvements in pain in their knees and their ability to get around. One of the most intimidating parts of the process is knee surgery recovery, but if you know what to expect, you will feel much better going in for the procedure with an orthopedic specialist.
Post-Knee Surgery at the Hospital
Knee surgery may take a few hours to complete. Depending on your situation, you may be given general anesthesia or a spinal, which will numb you from the waist down. If given general anesthesia, you will wake up soon after surgery. Most patients spend a few hours in the recovery room post-surgery and then get transferred to their own room at the hospital.
During the knee surgery recovery period at the hospital, you will have an IV that continuously delivers a combination of fluids and pain medications to keep you comfortable. You may also have a catheter to keep your bladder drained, which will be removed shortly after the initial time when you wake up. Some patients may also be given blood thinner medications to help prevent blood clots, and you may also be given IV antibiotics if you have a high risk of infection. Compression stockings on your legs help with blood circulation and to prevent swelling.
It is not uncommon for the hospital staff to try to get you up and moving a bit, either the day of or the day after your knee surgery. You will also be assigned a physical therapist that will help you get accustomed to moving and bending your knee. You may be given exercises to do once you get home.
Going Home for Knee Surgery Recovery: The First Week
Some patients will spend about two to three days in the hospital after knee replacement surgery. By day three or four, you should be fine to take a shower and get to the bathroom with just a bit of assistance. Patients that have a harder time may transition into a rehabilitation center for a bit more recovery time. Most care providers prefer that you can get in and out of bed on your own and are able to use either a walker or crutches to maneuver yourself around before you go home for the rest of your recovery.
During your first week home, rest is super important. Also, keep a close eye on your surgical site. Some redness or swelling at the surgical site is normal, but do keep an eye on the site and follow the surgeon’s orders about keeping the area clean and changing any wound dressing as needed. If you notice swelling more than usual, the site feels feverish, or you have any signs of infection, it is best to call your doctor for advice.
Getting up and walking to use the knee after surgery is essential. It is best to try to get up and move around every few hours. You may have some pain and discomfort with knee movement for the first week, and that is normal. You will likely have some medications from the doctor to help you with pain and inflammation.
Physical therapy during knee surgery recovery is vital as it helps you regain your range of motion. You may be scheduled to visit a physical therapy center a few days a week, but a physical therapist may also come to your home and work with you every few days.
Knee Surgery Recovery Beyond the First Week
Once you have been home and in recovery for about a week, you should be getting around a bit better, and your surgical wound should be well on the mend. At about two weeks, staples or stitches are usually removed, so you should have a followup appointment around the two-week marker with the orthopedic specialist.
Typically, by the time people reach about the third or fourth week of knee surgery recovery, they are well on their way to getting back to normal activities. Walking, swimming, and even gentle biking can be fine and good for you to get used to the new joint. One of the few things that can take more time is kneeling or putting direct pressure by sitting on the knees, as you may do while gardening. It can take a few months to work your way into these positions comfortably. Keep in mind that some pain and swelling are normal, and your range of motion will continue to improve for about 6 to 12 months after surgery.
Knee replacement surgery can be a life-changing thing if you have struggled with knee pain and poor knee use for a long time. If you believe you would be a viable candidate for knee surgery, make sure you work with the best orthopedic specialist. Reach out to us at Florida Orthopedics for more information.