Realistic Expectations

Highlights

  1. Nine out of 10 people who receive a total knee replacement report significant improvements in their quality of life.
  2. Regular exercise helps strengthen your new knee so that it lasts for a long time.
  3. Success rate is high: You have a 90- to 95-percent chance that your joint will last 10 years, and an 80- to 85-percent chance that it will last 20 years.

Knee replacement surgery, also called total knee arthroplasty, can relieve pain and restore function. The surgery involves cutting away torn or diseased cartilage and bone from your kneecap and the surrounding area, possibly including your thighbones and shinbones as well. You will be given a new artificial joint made of metal alloys or high-grade plastics.

Your new knee will mimic your old one in many ways, but it will take some time to get used to it. You may have some limitations with it. Typically, it takes three months for you to return to most activities. It can take six months to a year for you to make a full recovery and regain full strength. However, 9 out of 10 people who receive a total knee replacement report significant improvements in the quality of their life.

Exercise and Stay Active

After surgery, you will likely have to stay in the hospital for a couple days. Typically, your doctor will have you walking with the assistance of an aid, such as a cane or walker, by the next day. You should be walking without the assistance of an aid in two to three weeks.

Once you’ve undergone rehab and you’re back on your feet, you can return to most of your normal activities. You will be able to engage in many activities that were too painful before surgery. During the first year, you should steadily regain strength and flexibility in your knee. As long as you adhere to an exercise program and stay active, your artificial knee will most likely show steady and ongoing improvement.

Have Realistic Expectations

It’s important to have realistic expectations about your knee. You shouldn’t expect your artificial knee, as remarkable as it is, to function at the same level as your natural knee. It will not bend as much as your original knee. Activities such as the following will probably be more difficult:

  • kneeling
  • running
  • jumping
  • heavy labor

Resuming contact sports should be considered very carefully and discussed with your orthopedic surgeon. The risk of your artificial knee breaking or causing you further damage is real. Even if you’re physically able to participate in these activities, they are going to contribute to cumulative wear on your implant and can impact the lifespan of the implant. Most experts advise caution when resuming high-impact activities such as:

  • skiing
  • running
  • jogging
  • court sports

It’s common to experience some achiness and swelling, depending on the activities you participate in following recovery. Many knee replacement patients report some stiffness at the beginning of exercise or after long walks or bicycle rides. Some also experience a feeling of “hotness” around the knee. You may need to apply ice and take over-the-counter pain medication to manage any inflammation or residual pain.

However, staying active helps you maintain strength, flexibility, and endurance over the long haul. Also, exercise helps build bone mass and contributes to the development of a strong bond between bone and the implant, while reducing the risk of osteoporosis. When you exercise, your bone compresses, which causes bone to grow.

Manage Your Weight

Managing your weight is critical. Extra pounds negatively affect your knee by putting additional stress on your joint and can cause your prosthesis to break or wear out sooner. Remember that you are at an increased risk of infection after a knee replacement. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics before dental work or any invasive medical procedure.

The success rate for knee replacement surgery is high. The American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons states that you have a 90- to 95-percent chance that your joint will last 10 years, and an 80- to 85-percent chance that it will last 20 years. With improvements in technology, these numbers may improve. If you are older than 60 at the time of your surgery, and you properly care for your artificial knee, it will likely last until your very old age, or for the rest of your life.

It is important to monitor your new joint and to go in for periodic checkups. Your surgeon will determine whether, at some point in the future, you might require a revision. Watching your weight and getting regular exercise will help strengthen your knee and help it last for a long time.