After surgery, you’ll be taken to the recovery room and monitored for several hours. After you awaken from anesthesia, you’ll be taken to your hospital room. Typically, you’ll remain in the hospital for three to four days, depending on your recovery. You may feel some pain that will be managed with medication to make you as comfortable as possible. To avoid lung congestion after surgery, you should breath deeply and cough frequently to keep your lungs clear.
Possible Surgical Complications
The rate of medical complications following knee replacement surgery is extremely low. Serious infections, such as a knee joint infection, occur in less than 2 percent of patients. The most common cause of infection occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream during dental procedures, urinary tract infections or skin infections. After surgery, take antibiotics before dental work or surgical procedures.
Blood clots in leg veins are the most common complication of knee replacement surgery. Clots can be life threatening if they move to the brain, lungs or heart. Your orthopedic surgeon will have a blood clot prevention plan that may include leg exercises and elevation, medication and support stockings. If you experience any symptoms of blood clots, you should call your surgeon immediately. Symptoms include persistent swelling in your leg, pain in your calf or behind your knee and calf warmth or redness.
Walking and knee movement are very important for recovery. Usually the first day after surgery, you’ll begin to work with a physical therapist who will teach you exercises to regain full leg and knee movement. During your hospital stay, you’ll attend physical therapy one to two times a day. An occupational therapist and nurse discharge planner will help you prepare for your return home.
Your doctor may recommend a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine that bends and straightens your knee. You may be given special elastic stockings to reduce swelling. An anticoagulant medication, such as lovenox, also may be administered to help circulation and prevent blood clots.
Planning for When You Go Home
Most patients after joint surgery go home after leaving the hospital. You should plan ahead and arrange for family or friends to drive you home from the hospital. You will be most comfortable in a sedan-type car. You may need help from family and friends with cleaning, shopping and other errands for a week or two. You will not be allowed to drive for 3-6 weeks or longer so you may want to plan transportation to and from your doctor’s appointment.
If you live alone…
It is most important for you to consider the kind of help you will need and mobilize your friends and family to assist you (with shopping, cleaning, errands, transportation etc). Find a family member, or friend who is willing and able to take time off work to assist you for the first 4 or 5 days that you are home (Family Medical Leave Forms can be obtained from employers and submitted to the surgeon’s office for signature). Stock up on easy to prepare foods; frozen, canned, etc. Set up the telephone, or cellular phone in the area where you will spend most of your time.
Help at home…
Insurance very rarely, if ever, will cover help at home for bathing, dressing, cooking, or cleaning. It is best to plan ahead and see if you can get assistance from family or friends, church groups, or social clubs. There are homecare agencies that provide “home health aides” for this kind of help, but it runs upwards of $22/hr. (We can provide you with a list of agencies if you would like to pre-arrange that).
About Inpatient Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Facilities
The Physical and Occupational Therapists will evaluate you postoperatively and help the Doctors to determine what level of therapy you will need after you leave the hospital. There are 3 options:
- Home with physical therapy coming to your home 2 to 3 times a week (until you are able to go to an outpatient P.T clinic facility). The vast majority of our patients will be going home after joint replacement.
- Rehabilitation Hospitals are for those who the therapist and doctors feel require 3 hrs every day of PT and OT. (If you are able to get out of bed without hands-on help and walk with walker or crutches then it will be unlikely that you will qualify for inpatient rehabilitation stay.)
- Skilled Nursing Facilities (also called Nursing Homes or Convalescent Homes) are for those who need PT, are still unsafe to go home, but no longer need to be in the hospital and do not qualify for inpatient rehabilitation . At most Skilled Nursing Facilities the patient rooms are shared and there are usually no televisions, sometimes no bedside phones.
There are certain conditions that may increase the likelihood that you may qualify for a short stay in an inpatient rehabilitation facility. These include having a history of stroke, bilateral (both side) joint replacement, arthritis in more than 2 joints, or a spinal disorder.
Once you have returned home, it is very important to follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions during the first few weeks after surgery.
Caring for Your Incision — Your incision is closed with staples, which will be removed around 14 days after your surgery. This area will be bruised for a while and may itch, pull or feel numb. You also may experience a burning sensation, which can be relieved by using an icepack for 10 to 15 minutes. Avoid using creams, lotions or ointments on the hip area. You may want to put a bandage on your hip area, although be sure that you do not soak it. Keep the area dry until your staples are out. Avoid showers until forty-eight hours after your staple have been removed.
Physical Activity — Being physically active is an essential part of recovery. Within three to six weeks, you should be able to resume most normal physical activities of your daily routine. During the first few weeks of recovery, a physical therapist may teach or help you perform specific exercises to strengthen your hip. Other recommended physical activities include graduated walking and normal household activities to increase your mobility. However, it is important that you do not push yourself and avoid falling, which can damage your hip and require further surgery. Stairs are particularly hazardous and should be avoided if you do not have the help of an assisting device or caregiver. Recommended devices include a cane, crutches, walker and handrails.
Six weeks after surgery, when you regain full hip movement, you can probably resume driving. At this time, your surgeon also may allow you to return to work, depending on how much physical activity is involved in your occupation. Sexual activity can be resumed at this time as well.
Follow-Up — During the first year following your surgery, routine follow-up visits are scheduled with your orthopedic surgeon. Your follow-up appointments will be at three weeks, six weeks, three months, six months and 12 months after your surgery. You will be asked to return for annual visits thereafter to assess the status and function of your implant.|