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Frequently Asked Questions about the Joint Center

A well-informed patient is one who will be able to participate in their care and rehabilitation. Knowing what to expect before, during and after surgery can help you recover more quickly. It can also assist you and anyone caring for you to recognize potential problems. Patients often have common questions about total knee replacement. Answers to some questions are listed below. However, it is best to discuss your specific questions with your surgeon.

What is a total knee replacement?

A total knee replacement means that your surgeon makes an incision over the top of your knee. Damaged parts of your knee are replaced with artificial parts. The artificial parts are usually made up of metals, ceramics, or plastics. The parts are either cemented or press fit into the bone. Your surgeon decides which method is best for you. An artificial surface is placed on all parts of the joint that contact each other as the knee bends. One part of the prosthesis fits over the end of the upper leg bone (femur) and the other fits over the top of your lower leg bone (tibia). The incision is closed with stitches, staples, and/or glue. Correcting the knee spacing with your new knee often improves bowed or knock-knee deformity. Any arthritis in that knee is now gone. Your pain should lessen and function improves over time. 

When should I have the surgery?

When your pain level limits your lifestyle, you may consider surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon will decide if you are a candidate for joint replacement. This will be based on your history, exam, x-rays and response to conservative treatment. The decision will then be yours. 

Am I too old for surgery?

Age is not an issue if you are in good health and want to continue living an active life. You may be asked to see your primary doctor about your overall health and readiness for surgery.

What are the major risks?

Most surgeries go well, without any complications. The chances of an infection or blood clot are very low. However, infection and blood clots are two of the more serious complications that may occur. To reduce the risk of these complications, we use antibiotics and blood thinners. We also take special precautions in the operating room and throughout the hospital to reduce the risk of infections. A thorough medical examination before surgery reduces the risk of medical complications. 

Will I need to be to sleep for the surgery?

An anesthesiologist will discuss anesthesia options with you. You may have a general anesthetic. Some patients prefer to have a spinal or epidural anesthetic, which numbs from the waist down and does not require you to be asleep. You will be given medication that will relax you and make you drowsy. It also helps you to not remember the surgery.

How long will my surgery last?

One to three hours is the normal range. Some time is also spent preparing you for surgery and anesthesia. You will also spend one to two hours in the recovery room after surgery before going to your room.

Will the surgery be painful?

You will have discomfort following the surgery. The discomfort will lessen greatly over the first several days. Medication and ice will be given to keep you more comfortable. Gradually, over several days to weeks, your medication will be reduced to an over the counter pain reliever and then none. 

When can I get up?

You should plan to get in to a chair or walk with a walker the day of your surgery. The following day you will walk with a walker. 

When can I shower?

You can shower with assistance when approved by your surgeon. Your incision may need to be covered during your shower until it is healed. You will not be able to submerge your incision in water (bath tub or swimming) until is is completely healed. Ask your surgeon when it is appropriate to submerge your incision. 

How long will I stay in the hospital?

Most patients go home after two nights in the hospital.  Some patients, however, may need to spend a few extra days in an acute nursing facility or a rehab center.  There are reasons that patients may not go directly home, such as, there is not enough help at home or other medical conditions may limit progress.  Those types of situations may confirm the need for a temporary stay elsewhere.

Should I exercise before my total knee replacement?

Yes. Exercise instructions are available for you to follow under the Before Surgery tab.  You are encouraged to begin exercises as soon as you receive this guide and continue until your surgery.

Will I notice anything different about my knee?

Yes. You might have a small area of numbness to the outside of the scar, which may last a year or more. Some patients even notice some clicking when they move their knee. This is the result of the artificial surfaces.

Will I need special equipment after a total knee replacement?

We recommend that you use a gait aid (front wheel walker, crutches, or a cane) to assist your walking for about
six weeks. You may need other assistive equipment such as an elevated toilet seat, commode, or toilet safety rails, shower bench or chair, grab bars, and other assistive equipment may also be necessary for safety and use at home.

Will I notice anything different about my knee?

Yes. You might have a small area of numbness to the outside of the scar, which may last a year or more. Kneeling may be uncomfortable for a year or more. Some patients even notice some clicking when they move their knees. This is the result of the artificial surfaces.

Will I need special equipment after a total knee replacement?

We recommend that you use a gait aid (front wheel walker, crutches, or a cane) to assist your walking for about
six weeks. You may need other assistive equipment such as an elevated toilet seat, commode, or toilet safety rails, shower bench or chair, grab bars, and other assistive equipment may also be necessary for safety and use at home.

Will I need physical therapy when I go home?

For the first several days or weeks, depending on your progress, you will need someone to assist you with meal preparation, etc. Preparing ahead of time, before your surgery, can minimize the amount of help needed. Having the laundry done, house cleaned, yard work completed, and single portions of frozen meals will reduce the need for extra help.

Will I need help at home?

Yes. High impact activities such as running, tennis and basketball are not recommended unless approved by your physician. Injury prone sports such as downhill skiing are also dangerous for the new joint. Please ask your surgeon about the activities you enjoy and hope to continue.

How long until I can drive and get back to normal?

The ability to drive depends on whether the surgery was to your right leg or your left leg and the type of car you have. If the surgery was on your left leg and you have an automatic transmission, you may be driving sooner. Getting back to normal will depend on your progress. Discuss driving recommendations with your surgeon.

When will I be able to get back to work?

The time to return to work should be discussed with your orthopedic surgeon. Most often, at least four to six weeks are needed off from work. It may depend on the type of work you do.

What physical/recreational activities may I participate in after my recovery?

You are encouraged to participate in low-impact activities such as walking, dancing, golf, hiking, swimming, bowling, gardening, etc.

After my recovery, are there any restrictions?

Yes. High-impact activities such as running, tennis and basketball are not recommended unless approved by your physician. Injury prone sports such as downhill skiing are also dangerous for the new joint. Consult your surgeon on all restrictions; each surgeon may have different recommendations.

What are the different types of weight bearing restrictions?

The doctor will indicate to you how much weight you will be allowed to put on your surgical leg when you walk and perform transfers. This will be communicated to your Joint Center Team as well. Various types of weight bearing are:

  1. Weight bearing as tolerated means you are permitted to put as much weight on your leg as you can tolerate.
  2. 50% weight bearing means you are permitted to put about one half of your body weight on your leg at any given time.
  3. Toe touch (touch down) weight bearing means you are permitted to place your toe or foot on the floor for balance only, but no weight should be placed through it.
  4. Non-weight bearing means you are not allowed to place any weight on your surgical leg at any time.

When can I resume sexual intercourse?

The time to resume sexual intercourse should be discussed with your orthopedic surgeon. 

How often will I need to be seen by my orthopedic surgeon following my surgery?

Seven to ten days after discharge, you will be seen for your first after surgery office visit. The frequency of your follow-up visits will depend on your progress.

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400 West 16th Street, Pueblo, CO 81003

719.584.4000