Knees are the silent supporters of our day-to-day activities. They help us bend and move, dip and lift, walk or stand — which is why we’re so quick to notice when they need a little support themselves. For extreme cases, your orthopedic doctor may suggest total knee replacement surgery. What does it entail, and what should you expect if you get it done?
What is total knee replacement surgery?
Your knees bear the weight of your upper body and absorb shock carried upward through your feet when walking or running. As time or degenerative diseases wear down the ligaments and tendons around your knee, you may start to feel discomfort, pain, rubbing, or cracking. If caught in time, you may only need partial knee replacement surgery, but if the case is more severe, your doctor may suggest a total knee replacement.
Knee replacement surgery includes removing all of the damaged cartilage and a small amount of bone around the joint. Then, the removed cartilage and bone are replaced with metal components to recreate the surface of the joints, and a spacer is inserted. The advantages of this approach are:
- Improved mobility
- Less time spent in the hospital
- Can be performed as an outpatient procedure
Who needs total knee replacement surgery?
Most total knee replacement surgeries occur in people who are 55 or older, but they can also occur when people are younger as well. The best way to tell if you or a loved one needs total knee replacement is to talk to an orthopedic doctor to see if that’s the best option for your lifestyle. The most common candidates for total knee replacement surgery are people who:
- Have pain and stiffness in their knee(s) every day
- Have a knee(s) that is so painful that they have trouble with daily activities such as climbing stairs, dressing, bathing, or preparing meals
- Have a knee(s) that is unstable and gives out
- Have a knee or leg deformity
- Take medications, experienced weight loss, or used injections to try and relieve pain, but have not seen results
How to Prepare for a Total Knee Replacement
In order to make the most of your time before undergoing surgery, you should sit down with your orthopedic surgeon and be prepared to talk through your medical history — including any medications that you’re currently taking and any allergies that you have. You should also talk about your lifestyle and specifically discuss activities that you’ve been forced to give up because of your knee pain. During your visit, you may also want to ask them questions, including:
- Can knee replacement surgery help relieve my pain and stiffness?
- What type of knee replacement do you think is appropriate for my situation?
- What are the benefits and risks of knee replacement surgery?
- How long do recovery and rehabilitation take after surgery, and what can I expect?
- What activities could I participate in after I recover?
- Am I a candidate for total knee replacement surgery in an outpatient setting? Why or why not?
In addition to you asking questions about the surgery, your doctor may also ask you questions about your pain and stiffness, how bad it is, whether you can bend your knee or walk without assistance, and other similar inquiries. They may also try and ease your mind about any concerns you have about the surgery and enquire about the assistance you’ll have to help at home during the recovery phase.
What to Expect After a Total Knee Replacement
Before your surgery, you should prepare your home and make sure that it’s safe and comfortable. Getting everything in order beforehand will make things easier when you’re ready to go home. Think about how you’ll move around, looking at paths to ensure you can walk around the house without slipping or falling. This may include:
- Temporarily removing any rugs
- Checking that your carpets lay flat in all rooms and on stairs
- Moving furniture to make a clearer walking path
Most of your time will likely be spent in the main area of the house — like a living room — where you can relax but also have easy access to the front door or kitchen. Make sure this area is comfortable and will make you feel at ease. Things to keep in mind may include:
- Choosing a comfortable chair that has armrests and a good backrest
- Setting up a bed on the main floor to help limit your use of stairs
- Checking the lighting to make sure the room is well lit to help you avoid slips and falls
Ultimately, you want to make sure that your home is convenient for how you’ll be using it for the next few weeks. You want to avoid picking up, bending, or lifting anything. Think about your everyday tasks and create a plan for how to do them — or get help from someone else. In preparation:
- Move any kitchen items that you may need with easy reach — including healthy snacks
- Consider buying a special seat to make getting on and off the toilet easier
- Get a bench or stool to make using the tub or shower easier
- Check that your bath mats are slip-resistant
Once your home is prepared, make sure you have family, neighbors, or other loved ones lined up to help you with tasks that you may be unable to accomplish at first. You should have someone available who can assist you should you run into any issues. This includes having someone to drive you to and from the orthopedic walk-in clinic.
Recovery Time for a Total Knee Replacement
Some patients will be able to return home the same day as their surgery. From there, it can take a month to two months for a patient to be able to drive on their own, and up to two months for a patient to be able to take care of themselves and return to normal activities. How quickly they’ll fully recover can vary — some will begin to see the full benefits of the surgery within four to six months, while others won’t fully heal until closer to a year.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you have knee pain and it’s making your life uncomfortable, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love. With six convenient locations, we provide quality orthopedic care and interventional pain management services to patients in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Palm Coast, and New Smyrna Beach.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.