Preparation for a knee replacement
To prepare for your surgery, carefully follow any instructions provided to you by your care team. You may be asked to stop taking certain medications or supplements for several weeks before your surgery. The night before your surgery, you will be asked to stop eating or drinking.
You will additionally want to prepare for your recovery. Making your home accessible for crutches or a walker will be necessary so that you may get around after surgery. You will want to arrange for rides to and from the hospital. It may also be helpful to have someone helping with everyday tasks for a few weeks as you recover.
During the surgery, you will be given either general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia. You may also have a nerve block to help with the pain.
Your knee will be bent during the procedure, and after making an incision, your surgeon will cut away the damaged joint surfaces. They will then attach pieces of the artificial joint. The knee replacement surgery itself typically takes about two hours.
You will recover in the hospital for a couple of days, where you’ll be encouraged to move your ankle and feet around to increase blood flow and prevent swelling and blood clots. You may also take blood thinners and wear compression boots to protect against clotting.
Depending on your age and overall health, recovery from a total knee replacement can take up to three months. In some cases, it takes six months to one year to regain full strength and endurance. Your recovery will largely depend on how diligent you are with your physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises.
After the procedure, most people can return to normal activities without pain and discomfort. Before you start any type of activity, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. Once you can bend your knee enough to sit in a car, you will be allowed to drive again, provided you are not taking narcotic pain medications.
For most people, knee replacement drastically increases their quality of life, and they are able to live pain-free. Knee replacements can last for more than 15 years.
Many people experience some restricted range of motion post-knee replacement surgery. Most patients can almost fully straighten their knee and bend it sufficiently to climb stairs and get in and out of a car. It is normal to feel stiffness and numbness around the incision, as well as clicking of the metal and plastic with knee bending or walking.
After a knee replacement, light exercise programs will help you maintain strength and mobility in your knee and prolong the life of your replacement knee. You will be able to participate in low-impact activities such as swimming or biking, but will need to avoid high-impact activities such as jogging and skiing. Talk to your doctor about what types of activities are best for you.
When is the best time for a knee replacement?
There is no “right age” for a knee replacement. Because osteoarthritis and other conditions that lead to knee replacements are more common in older adults, most knee replacement candidates are in their mid to late sixties, but this number varies widely.
Figuring out the best age to get a knee replacement can be complicated. Since the average lifespan of an artificial knee is 15-20 years, your surgeon may want to delay the procedure for as long as possible to avoid having to undergo a revision surgery. On the other hand, getting a knee replacement faster can get you back to your typical activities quickly and prevent pain.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.