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What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery

This information applies to 90 to 95% of patients after Total Knee Arthroplasty.

Day of surgery:

You will be up on your feet the same day of surgery and walking with the help of hospital staff (or the next day, if your surgery is late in the day.) Your knee will likely be swollen and warm. You will use ice and keep the leg elevated to help with the swelling. It is normal to have some swelling and warmth in the knee for up to eight months. It should, however, decrease gradually over time.

Days one to three:

The hospital physical therapists will help you work on your range of motion, strength and walking with the help of a walker. Working on range of motion (bending and straightening) is very important right after surgery. If you do not work on it, you may risk the quality of your outcome. Sometimes it is difficult to work on these exercises, but the more effort you put in, the better the results. Your range of motion should progress as follows:

Day two - 70 degrees
Day three - 80 degrees
Day four - 90 degrees

Approximately three days after surgery:

You will be discharged from the hospital. For example: if you have surgery on Monday, you will be discharged on Thursday. If your surgery is on Wednesday, you will be discharged Saturday. If your surgery is on Friday, you will be discharged on Monday. You will either go home from the hospital or to a rehabilitation center.

First three weeks:

Continue with physical therapy. The physical therapy may be at a rehab center, in your home, or as outpatient therapy. Make sure you are still icing and elevating your leg to reduce swelling. You must work hard and be diligent about your bending and straightening exercises.

Three weeks after surgery:

First post-op visit in the office. We will check your wound, swelling and range of motion. You will also have an x-ray this visit. You must have 0-110 degrees range of motion and should be using a single cane. You will notice a permanently numb area outside of the knee.

Six weeks after surgery:

You may return to driving if you are not taking pain pills. Make sure you practice first on a side street or parking lot to make sure that you can drive safely. You may feel safe enough to stop using the cane. You may use some lotion on the scar. You may use whatever kind of lotion that you like. Rub the scar up and down, side to side and in small circles. This will help the scar become less sensitive and help it fade.

Three months after surgery:

You will walk with no cane and will feel your strength increasing and pain decreasing.

Six to eight months after surgery:

Most patients will have reached maximum strength and improvement.

General activities list:

Hiking, biking, walking, golf, doubles tennis, cross-country skiing (with care)