As orthopaedic surgeons, we are always keen to ensure that patients having knee replacement surgery achieve the best possible outcomes. Obviously, the surgeon’s skill and experience are crucial, coupled with the use of state-of-the-art procedures and implants.
But patients too, have a role to play. If you are scheduled to have a knee replacement, here are some things to think about that can help you to get the best from your surgery.
Before surgery (prehabilitation)
We spend a lot of time talking to our patients prior to surgery to ensure they know exactly what to expect and have an opportunity to ask any questions they may have. It’s a good idea to get clear about the procedure you are having by researching it online and talking to your surgeon. If you have any concerns, no matter how small, talk to them. They will most likely be able to put your mind at rest.
With many joint replacement procedures now having a longer waiting list than normal, it might be helpful to think about prehabilitation – the process of getting yourself in optimum health for your surgery. Talk to your surgeon or physiotherapist about exercises you might be able to do to build strength and flexibility prior to the procedure.
If you are overweight, this is a good time to loose those extra pounds to avoid putting your new knee joints under extra stress. And if you smoke this is the perfect time to quit as smoking can increase the risk of complications after surgery and hinder the healing process.
Immediately before your procedure, it’s important to consider whether you need to make any adaptations to your home life to support you post-surgery. You will need someone to support you at home for several days after surgery or longer in some cases. Cooking meals in advance and freezing them can be helpful as it means you eat nourishing food without needing to cook.
You may need to rearrange furniture so that you can get around easily with a walker or crutches and nothing presents a trip hazard. You may have to change a downstairs room into a bedroom temporarily until you are ready to climb stairs.
The surgical team will talk to you about assistive devices and equipment that you can use to help you immediately after surgery. For example, you may need a grabbing tool to prevent you from having to bend over too far or a long-handled sponge for washing. You may also need a raised toilet seat, a gripping bar and a shower chair.
After surgery (rehabilitation)
You will be given detailed aftercare advice on how to care for your wound after surgery. It is important that you keep the area clean and dry and change any dressings as directed. You will need to avoid having a bath or shower for a short until your surgeon says it is safe to do so.
Some swelling and pain is to be expected after surgery however, you should seek urgent medical advice if the wound becomes severely swollen or hot or if you develop a fever as these can be signs of an infection.
In the medium to long-term, continue taking painkilling medication for as long as you need to. It is important to eat a healthy, nourishing diet while your body is healing and you may be advised to take vitamin and iron supplements. You should avoid taking vitamin K (or eating foods rich in vitamin K such as broccoli and cauliflower) if you are taking blood-thinning medication such as Warfarin.
One of the questions knee replacement patients want answered is ‘when can I get back to everyday activities like driving, sport or going to work?’
Every patient recovers at different rates so it is not possible to provide a definitive answer. However, in most cases your surgeon will recommend you can resume driving once you are no longer taking opioid pain medication and when your reflexes and strength have returned to normal.
Returning to work is dependent on how quickly you recover and what type of work you do. It is normally recommended to walk after knee replacement surgery and you should also be able to do other low-impact activities like swimming once the wound has healed. You should avoid high-impact exercise like running or jumping until advised by your surgeon that it is safe to go ahead.
Contact us for more information about knee replacements and advice about prehabilitation and rehabilitation after surgery.