Updated: Apr 8, 2021
Many of us know someone who has or will be getting a knee replacement. That someone might be yourself! In fact, there are over 700,000 total knee replacements each year. Many of them go without complication and many will restore a majority of their function; however, for those who will be going into surgery or have recently completed their operation - they may still have questions. As a physical therapist, let me help inform you by tackling the top 5 most common questions I receive from patients.
#1 "How long does it take to recover?"
Because of everyone's level of health prior to surgery, results will vary. Typically, patients restore a majority of their function within 12 weeks. Some have been blessed and do great after 8 weeks; however, most people feel 75-90% back to normal with some residual but mild knee achiness, swelling, stiffness, and weakness up until a year. Your diligence in managing your swelling and adhering to your home program will produce the best chance for a full recovery.
#2 "Is it normal to have redness?"
If the redness remains localized around the incision and isn't too warm to the touch it's very common and completely normal. Signs of when the infection is apparent is when a significant portion of the knee and rest of the leg are red, hot to the touch, the skin is taut and shiny, and you might be a little unwell or sick. This is typically monitored closely but consult with your physician team if this is what you're experiencing.
#3 "There is so much bruising, is this normal?"
Yes, initially after surgery you may experience deep red or purple bruising. This is likely due to the combination of the blood-thinning medications, the utilization of a tourniquet to prevent bleeding during surgery, and general tissue trauma sustained from the operation. You will find that these bruises will likely migrate down the leg and turn various shades of colors as your body filters these bruises out.
#4 "How long will the swelling last?"
Most swelling or "edema" dissipates within 12 weeks. Keep in mind your body went through tissue trauma and has to go through the inflammatory phase of healing to help you fully recover. It will be important during your initial few weeks to keep your leg elevated and iced while rested and moving when your not. I'd argue that most of the discomfort following knee surgery is due to the pressure from swelling; therefore, combatting it will help tremendously in restoring your range of motion as you aren't working against the restriction from the fluid in the joint and surrounding tissues. Keep in mind that those with poor circulation due to cardiovascular or diabetic problems will typically struggle for a bit longer than normal.
#5 "Are there any restrictions?"
No. Unlike a total shoulder or total hip replacement, a knee replacement does not have restrictions. In fact, they will get you up out of bed shortly after surgery and while you are recovering before your discharge from the hospital. As you recover, you will feel more comfortable engaging in your desired activities. Some individuals feel like they shouldn't kneel, but according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that although it may be uncomfortable, it is not harmful to the new joint. If you stay diligent with your home exercise program outlined by your physical therapist, you should be back on your feet in a reasonable period of time.
If you have any additional questions about a knee replacement or rehabilitation contact me at 605-501-6685 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have time, watch my video on total joint replacements!