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What to Expect During Knee Replacement Recovery

Is there anything I can do to make the recovery process go more smoothly after knee replacement surgery?

It seems to be a quirk of human nature that we tend to take for granted those things that we actually depend on the most. An excellent example of this is the knee. We expect a lot from the strongest joint in our body. Every step we take puts the pressure of the equivalent of approximately one-and-a-half times our body weight on our knees. And, that is just walking: climbing up or down stairs doubles that, and running can increase the force nearly eight-fold.

Sooner or later, there’s a good chance that all of that stress will lead to problems. Add injuries along the way, as well as the possible development of some type of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or post-traumatic arthritis, and the odds keep going up. This leads to the prospect of knee replacement surgery.

Patients Reap Benefits of New Methods and Technology

We have all heard the horror stories about how difficult the recovery process is following knee replacement surgery. There was a time when those accounts were fairly accurate. In the not-so-distant past, joint surgery was extremely invasive, creating a great deal of damage and trauma to the surrounding tissue, tendons, ligaments and bone structure. The healing process for this was not only lengthy but, understandably, quite painful. The good news is that times have changed! Technology and innovation have given us the ability to do a better job and, at the same time, reduce recovery time and discomfort.

One very obvious indicator that knee replacement surgery has become so successful and is enjoying such a high rate of satisfaction with patients is that, in the U.S alone, surgeons are performing nearly 700,000 of these surgeries every year. This is partially due to the fact that longevity has increased, and many people are simply not satisfied with spending those extra years in a rocking chair: they want to be able to remain active and enjoy that time. That said, an equally relevant factor in the explosion of joint replacement surgeries is that surgeons, using arthroplasty and the latest nano technology, have gotten so good at doing them. This results in restored mobility, the elimination of the pain the patient had been living with and a recovery process that is shorter and far less painful.

Your Role in Making Recovery as Easy as Possible

While knee replacement surgery is far easier to bounce back from than ever before, there are definitely ways to make your own go as smoothly as possible. Some suggestions for that include:

  • Choose the best surgeon – nothing is more important than doing your research and finding the most highly skilled and experienced surgeon with whom you have total confidence and a good rapport.
  • Communication – if you have questions or concerns, voice them. If you are in pain following surgery, tell someone right away. Being proactive about your own pain management and getting it under control as soon as possible will make a big difference.
  • Avoid infection – do not assume others will be on top of cleanliness so insist that staff and visitors always wash their hands while you are in the hospital and continue this at home.
  • Follow post-op instructions – make sure that you understand all the instructions given you by your doctor and staff. Follow through with exercise and physical therapy to the best of your ability. Ice and keeping your leg elevated will help with reducing pain and swelling. This will speed your recovery and get you back to doing the things you love.
  • Have a plan for when you go home – you will need assistance in the beginning so anyone living alone should arrange for someone to move in for awhile or consider a short stay in a rehab facility. Prior to surgery, rearrange furniture if necessary, stock the pantry and have as much ready as possible so that you can focus on healing.

It is natural to feel some anxiety when approaching something like knee replacement surgery. Knowing what to expect and being prepared are powerful tools to help alleviate those concerns.

Patrick A. Meere, M.D., C.M. a board certified, fellowship trained Orthopedic surgeon with over 25 years of clinical experience in the New York, NY area is a Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, NYU School of Medicine and the director of the Laboratory for Advanced Arthroplasty Research in Robotics and Sensors at the NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital. If you have questions about knee replacement surgery or anything related to knee or hip care, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.

Posted in: Blog, Knee Replacement

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