Recovering from a knee replacement operation is a long and complex process. At times, it may seem overwhelming.

Your surgeon will schedule several follow-up appointments during the first year after surgery. They may also schedule periodic checkups after that. Your exact follow-up schedule will depend on your surgeon and how well you’re doing.

You may have questions or concerns during your recovery period. Your doctor and physical therapist (PT) also need to monitor your improvement. That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with your healthcare team after knee replacement surgery. 

Do You Understand What You Need to Do?

Your medical team should help you learn how to care for yourself after your surgery. They should also teach you to use any equipment that’s prescribed to you. For example, you may need to learn how to:

  • care for surgical wounds or incision sites
  • use a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine
  • use assistive walking aids, such as crutches or a walker
  • transfer yourself from the your bed to a chair or sofa
  • adhere to a home exercise program

During follow-up appointments, share any questions or concerns you have about your self-care routine. Your surgeon and PT can help you learn how to stay safe and promote good recovery.

Are You Recovering on Schedule?

Everyone’s recovery and rehabilitation process is slightly different. It’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself and monitor your progress.

Your surgeon and PT will check your progress in a number of areas, including your mobility and ability to flex and extend your knee. Keep track of your progress between follow-up appointments, as you strive to maximize your range of motion. In most cases, you should gradually work to achieve 100 degrees of active knee flexion or more. You should also track your ability to do exercises and perform routine household tasks.

Report your progress to your surgeon and PT. Ask them when you can expect to work, drive, travel, and participate in other routine activities again.

Is Your Artificial Knee Functioning Correctly?

Your surgeon will want to ensure that your artificial knee is working correctly. They will also check for signs of infection and other problems.

It’s normal to experience some pain, swelling, and stiffness after knee replacement surgery. It may not be a sign of anything wrong. However, you should tell your surgeon if you experience any of the following, if they are unexpected or excessive:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • stiffness
  • numbness

Pay attention to your knee and report your progress over time, as well as any abnormalities or signs of problems. As your strength and comfort improve, you can learn how your knee performs during basic activities, such as walking, driving, and climbing stairs.

Are You Taking the Right Medications?

As you recover, gradually wean yourself off of pain medications. It’s not unusual to require occasional over-the-counter painkillers for up to a year or more after surgery. Review your symptoms, pain management needs, and medication dosages with your doctor.

It’s also important to discuss any dental work or other surgical procedures that you might require. Your surgeon may prescribe preventive antibiotics to avoid possible infections from these events. You should also tell your them about new medications or supplements you start taking, as well as any health conditions you develop. Some medications can negatively interact with other medications or supplements. They can also make certain health conditions worse.

Follow-Up Care Is Important

Regular follow-up appointments are an important part of your recovery process. They give you the opportunity to:

  • ask questions
  • share concerns,
  • learn about your rehabilitation

Follow-up visits also give your surgeon and PT the chance to monitor your progress and address any problems that arise. Take responsibility for your health by attending regular follow-up appointments and following your prescribed treatment plan.