FAQ – Total Knee Arthroplasty

What activities can I do after surgery? What are my restrictions after surgery?

After surgery you are free to enjoy low impact activities including walking, hiking, swimming, cycling, use of a treadmill or elliptical trainer, golf, light tennis, and skiing (assuming you were a proficient skier before surgery!).  Participation in impact sports (such as basketball or volleyball) or running is not advised.

Although you are allowed to do so, you will probably find that kneeling on your new knee will not be comfortable after surgery.

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When can I drive after surgery?

Within 2-4 week for a left knee replacement, and within 4-6 weeks for a right knee replacement.

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When will I be able to go back to work?

People typically regain the energy, mobility, and comfort required to resume desk or office work within 4-6 weeks, and physical labor by 3 months.

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How long does it take to recover from surgery?

You will likely be able to resume light household and community activities within 4 to 6 weeks.  Full recovery time to resume all activities is usually about 3 months.  There is also further healing that takes place for up to 6-12 months after surgery.

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When will I be able to go up and down stairs?

You will be taught how to do stairs by the physical therapists in the hospital and should be able to go up and down stairs by 3-10 days after surgery.

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When can I walk on my new knee? Will I need a walker or crutches?

You are encouraged to put full weight on your knee and walk on it immediately.  People typically use a walker or crutches for a few weeks, following which they graduate to use of a cane for a few more weeks until strength and balance have returned well enough to graduate to walking without any assist devices.

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Will I need therapy after surgery? When does it start? How long does it last?

Participation in physical therapy is an important component to a successful surgical outcome.  Therapy will start while you are in the hospital, either on the day of your surgery or the day after.  While in the hospital (or in an inpatient rehab facility), you’ll receive therapy every day.  After you’re discharged to home, a physical therapist will come to your home until you are mobile enough to attend outpatient therapy, usually 2 or 3 weeks after surgery.  Therapy typically lasts for 6 to 12 weeks after surgery, usually twice or three times per week.

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Where will I go after I’m discharged from the hospital?

You may go directly home after your hospital stay.  Alternately, if more assistance is required for you to regain mobility, strength, and independence after surgery, you may be transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation facility for an additional 1-2 weeks.

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How long will I stay in the hospital?

The hospital stay is typically three nights (you will be discharged three days after the surgery).

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What is done to prevent infection?

Several precautions are taken to prevent infection, including use of antibacterial soap prior to the surgery, use of antibiotics while you are in the hospital, and specific measures taken by the surgeon and operating room staff to ensure the highest levels of sterility.

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What kind of anesthesia will I get?

We usually use a combination of general anesthesia and a spinal anesthetic.  The spinal anesthetic will numb your legs and allow you to be comfortable when you wake up from the surgery, and the general anesthetic will ensure that you are asleep and comfortable during the procedure.

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How long will it last?

Modern knee prostheses typically last at least 15 to 20 years.

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What type of prosthesis is used?

The parts of the prosthesis are made of strong metals including cobalt chrome and titanium as well as medical grade high density plastic.  The type or brand of the prosthesis has no bearing on what you can or cannot do after surgery; all modern knee implants will allow you to whatever you want to do, within reasonable limits (see below)!

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How long does the surgery take?

The procedure typically lasts a little over an hour.

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What do I need to do to prepare for surgery?

Once you decide to have the surgery, you should schedule a checkup with your primary care doctor (internist or family practitioner).  He or she will order any special preoperative tests that may be necessary, and (if applicable) will advise you when to stop taking your blood thinners before surgery.

You are also strongly advised to have a dental checkup.  The reason for this is that dental infections can lead to development of an infection of your new knee prosthesis; surprisingly, many people are harboring chronic, low-grade dental infections but are not aware of it!

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Should I have knee replacement surgery?

The decision to have a knee replacement is based on several factors, including your overall health, ability or willingness to undergo a surgery that will require several weeks of rehabilitation, and your goals for after surgery.  However, the main reason to have surgery is pain – painful arthritis which significantly affects your quality of life and/or is not controlled with nonsurgical treatments.

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