Deciding to have knee replacement surgery is a big deal.
You’ve spent months or years in pain, and moving around has become increasingly more difficult. Perhaps you’ve tried physical therapy or cortisone injections but nothing’s helping. After many discussions and consultations with your doctor, you’ve decided it’s time for a knee replacement.
Before you have surgery, here are 5 questions you need to ask:
Even though you’re having surgery to replace your knee joint, it isn’t a guarantee.
To set yourself up for a more successful surgery, there may be some things you can do before you ever check into the hospital.
Your doctor may recommend specific exercises to improve knee mobility or, if you are carrying a great deal of extra weight, just exercising in general may be helpful. The more weight you put on any joint, natural or artificial, the higher chances it has of failing. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine in the weeks leading up to your surgery.
In addition to losing weight, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol can help prepare your body for surgery and a better recovery. The better health you’re in at the time of your surgery, the better chances you have for an easy, quick recovery process.
Also, if you’re going to be using crutches or a walker after surgery, you may ask your doctor to get you set up with these devices beforehand so you can learn how to walk with them. If you know how to use them before your surgery, you’ll be able to get around more easily when you have to remember to be careful of your newly replaced joint.
Like any surgery, there are potential complications that come with knee replacement surgery.
While rare, they can still happen, and you need to be informed that there is the possibility that something could happen during or after your surgery.
Some complications to be aware of include:
Many of these complications can be avoided by following your surgeon’s advice (For example, keeping your surgical site clean and covered can prevent infection), but there are some issues that you can’t prepare for. Being aware of all the potential risks of your surgery is part of being an informed patient.
Once you are released from the hospital, your recovery process will continue at home.
To make your at-home recovery as successful - and safe - as possible, you may need to make some changes to your living environment.
For at least the first several days you are home, you should have someone with you close to 24 hours per day. This person will need to be able to help you get up to use the bathroom, bring you food, and help change any bandages you may have.
After you’re done with the need for 24/7 help, there are some things that you may be able to do to make your home safer for yourself during recovery.
Bending your knee will be difficult, so adding a riser to your toilet, as well as something stable to grab onto, is a necessity. You also may need to consider having your bed moved to your main floor so you don’t have to go up and down stairs. Also, having a nearby stash of snacks and drinks for the daytime hours can decrease the amount you’ll need to walk around, limiting your chances of falling.
Immediately following the surgery, you can expect some pain and swelling in your knee.
Your doctor will prescribe you pain medications to deal with the pain. Not all pain medications work for everyone, so do not hesitate to tell your care team if you are still in pain following medication. Your dosage or the type of medication you receive may need to be adjusted to help find the right solution for you, making your recovery time less painful and frustrating.
You also likely will undergo physical therapy before you leave the hospital. Pay attention to what the physical therapist tells you to do, how you’re instructed to move, and be sure to keep track of any take-home instructions or exercises you are given. The more you participate in your physical therapy in the hospital and after your release, the better your recovery outcomes will be.
Getting up and moving around also will be part of your hospital stay. At first, you will be instructed to call for assistance if you need to use the restroom or get up from bed. You also will be taken for walks around the hospital, slowly, to begin to learn how to walk on your new joint.
After a while, your care team may allow you to get up and move around on your own, or just with supervision. Do not try to push yourself and move on your own before you’re instructed to do so.
Oftentimes, patients and their care teams have misaligned expectations for surgery.
If you’ve never had knee replacement surgery before, you may expect to be up and moving around, feeling great a week after surgery. Your doctor, however, knows that recovery takes much longer than that.
Having an honest discussion with your doctor about what your likely outcomes may be - decreased pain, increased mobility, not being able to play sports for several months - can help get your expectations in line with theirs, helping decrease your frustration during the process.
At the Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics - MMI Division, our team of skilled, experienced orthopedic surgeons have handled countless joint replacement surgeries just like yours. It is always our goal to help you feel better, move around more, and enjoy your life. If you’re experiencing knee pain related to arthritis or another injury, get compassionate, conservative treatment to meet your needs. Schedule an appointment today!