Total Knee Replacement – FAQ
By Jared Ernest, Physical Therapist
JOI FAQ for Total Joint Knee Replacement
What things can I do at my house to get ready for a Total Knee Replacement?
First thing to do is to pick up any loose rugs that could cause you to trip and fall. The next thing is to make sure your shower is safe for you to use after surgery. Install a handle to hold onto (suction cup ones work well for this and can be found most anywhere). Another consideration is your toilet. Some physicians like to issue a 3-in-1 commode for you to use after surgery. It can be adjusted to be used over your current toilet so that you do not have to sit down so far to use it. It can also double as a shower chair so that you can sit while showering. These tend to be very useful most people.
What is the typical recovery time?
Typically, you will be using a walker for the first 2-3 weeks to get around. You can transition to a cane or no supportive devices at the direction of your physician. A majority of people are doing well and getting back to most activities by 3 months, but it can take 6 months to a year to fully recover depending on many conditions. Returning to work will depend on what you do for a living. Desk jobs could be back to work in as little as 3 weeks, but jobs that require prolonged standing or walking will require more time. Other activities such as tennis and golf can only be determined and cleared by your physician.
When can I take a shower?
Most people can start showering right when they come home from the hospital. Some physicians use a special bandage that will cover your entire incision and keep it dry. Other physicians may want you to cover your incision with plastic wrap to keep it dry. Please check with your physician about what they prefer their patients to do.
When do the staples come out?
These will stay in until you see your physician for your follow-up appointment after surgery (usual follow-up appointments range from 10-14 days post-op). They will then place steri-strips over your incision and those can stay on for another 1-2 weeks.
Do I need to wear compression stockings?
Some physicians utilize these and others do not. Please check with your physician on what he or she prefers to do in regards to these.
How long do I need to take pain meds?
This is different for everyone. There are many different levels of narcotics that your physician can utilize. These medications can also make you constipated, so many physicians recommend taking a stool softener to avoid any problems in this area.
Will I have to take a blood thinner medication?
Some physicians utilize these drugs and others do not. You will have to ask your physician about his or her preferences.
How long will I be in the hospital?
Most people stay 2-3 days, depending on how you are feeling and progressing.
When do I start Physical Therapy?
You will begin this during your hospital stay and start walking the day after your surgery with a walker. This will continue when you go home as well. Most physicians utilize Physical Therapy at your home every day for the first 2-3 weeks. It is very important to get your knee moving early so it does not get stiff. The transition to outpatient physical therapy is dependent on many factors. This will be determined by your physician during your follow-up appointments.
When can I start driving?
This varies for everyone, but the most important factor in this regard is whether you are taking narcotic medications. If you are, driving is not safe for you or others on the road. If you had your right knee replaced, your restriction is usually longer but will depend on how your strength and range of motion are progressing. An automatic transmission car makes this an easier transition a well. Traveling long distances shortly after your surgery is not recommended because of the risk of a blood clot forming. Please discuss all of these issues with your physician before returning to driving.
Is ice or heat better for my knee?
Initially, ice is all that you should use on your knee to help manage pain and swelling. Heat should only be used under the guidance of your physician or Physical Therapist that is treating you.
Do I need to take antibiotics for dental work and other procedures following my Total Knee Surgery?
Most physicians recommend the use of antibiotics for all dental work following a total joint procedure. If you have a bacterial infection such as strep throat, antibiotics may also be used to not only treat the current infection, but to also help protect your new joint from any possible infection setting in there. Your physician will give you instructions on all of this information following your surgery.
How long will my Total Knee last?
This is dependent on many factors, but most Total Knee Joints can last 15 years or more. The technological advancements of these implants are constantly evolving, thus, extending these time frames.
At JOI, we are always willing to answer any questions that you may have about your surgical procedure and what to expect afterwards. Our research library and trending section of our website have hundreds of articles which can help answer your medical orthopedic questions.