Some Tips to Help Your Recovery Following Knee Replacement Surgery
While knee replacement rates as one of the most successful surgical interventions, much of its success depends on how patients handle their recovery. Joints are complex structures combining bone and cartilage with the soft tissue of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels. Performing surgery on a joint is a painstaking process requiring exceptional skills from the attending surgeon.
However, once the procedure has been completed and the patient is discharged, some basic post-operative precautions will be essential to ensure a favourable outcome. Many patients are surprised that they are encouraged to walk the day after their surgery. However, they should be aware that the road to a full recovery is measured in months rather than days. Furthermore, to a large extent, the duration of their journey will depend on them.
It Helps to Prepare Yourself for a Knee Replacement
Even before your operation, there are some things you can do to help speed your recovery. Strength will play a significant role in helping you regain your mobility after your surgery. Remaining active in the weeks before your surgery with gentle exercises like swimming and walking can help to strengthen the muscles that support your knee, making it easier and safer to exercise your knee post-operatively.
If you are taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, you should stop taking it a week before your operation date. These medicines can inhibit the clotting process and increase the risk of excessive blood loss.
Finally, prepare your home by removing potential obstructions, loose rugs and anything that might cause you to trip. Buy a shower chair and fit a raised toilet seat for additional safety.
Some Important Do’s and Don’ts After Your Knee Replacement
You can expect high pain levels for the first few days after your surgery, but your surgeon will prescribe medication to help you. The operation is often performed on an outpatient basis, and you could be discharged on the same day. However, your doctor will first assess you, and you might need to spend a couple more days in the hospital. Once home, follow your surgeon’s advice to the letter.
Things to Do
- Elevate your leg to relieve swelling when lying down or apply ice.
- Use a cane or walker to prevent falls.
- Until you can manage the stairs, arrange to sleep on the ground floor.
- Keep your phone handy in case you need help.
- Report excessive pain, bleeding or signs of infection immediately.
Things to Avoid
- Post-operative exercise is essential, but don’t overdo it. Pace yourself and build up gradually.
- Avoid activities that involve twisting or excessive pressure on the knee.
- Don’t rely too much on painkillers, as they could conceal evidence you may be overdoing things.
The Success Rate for Knee Replacement
The overall success of this procedure is around 95%, and most implants should continue to function for twenty years. However, approximately one in ten patients who undergo a partial replacement require additional surgery after ten years. The orthopaedic unit of the Wilgers Life Hospital in Pretoria has become a national and international referral centre for patients requiring shoulder, hip or knee replacement surgery. Click here for more advice about the latter.