Recovering from knee replacement surgery can take time. It may sometimes seem overwhelming, but your healthcare team is there to help you cope.
In a knee replacement, surgery is the first step in a process.
How you manage your recovery, with the help of your healthcare team, will largely determine how effective the intervention is.
In this article, find out why follow-up matters, and how it can help you.
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 also need to monitor your improvement.
That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with your healthcare team after knee replacement surgery. They can help you make the best decisions as you go through the process of recovery.
Your medical team is there to help you learn:
- how to care for yourself after surgery
- how to use any equipment they prescribe
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 your bed to a chair or sofa
- adhere to a home exercise program
During follow-up appointments, you can share any questions or concerns you have about your self-care routine.
Your surgeon and physical therapist can help you learn how to stay safe and enhance your recovery.
Everyone’s recovery and rehabilitation process is slightly different. It’s essential to set realistic expectations for yourself and monitor your progress.
Your healthcare team will monitor your progress and help you keep on track.
Your surgeon and PT will check your progress in a number of areas, including:
- your pain levels
- how well your wound is healing
- your mobility
- your ability to flex and extend your knee
Mobility and flexibility
Between appointments, you will be working to maximize your range of motion, or how far you can move your knee. As you do this, keep track of your progress. This will help you and your doctor decide what the next step will be.
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 physical therapist. Ask them when you can expect to work, drive, travel, and participate in other routine activities again.
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. These may not be a sign of anything wrong.
However, you should tell your surgeon if you experience any of the following, especially if they are unexpected, severe, or getting worse rather than better:
Pay attention to your knee and report your progress over time. Also, let your doctor know about any concerns or signs of problems.
An artificial knee may not feel quite like a natural knee.
As your strength and comfort improve, you can learn how your new knee performs during basic activities, such as walking, driving, and climbing stairs.
Immediately after surgery, you may need a range of medications to help you manage pain, constipation, and possibly to prevent an infection.
As you recover, you will gradually stop using your pain medications. Your doctor can help you plan for each step, including when to switch to a different type of drug, and when to stop altogether.
Most doctors will recommend moving away from opioid medication as soon as possible, but there are other options.
Some people will need occasional over-the-counter pain relief medication for up to a year or more after surgery.
Review your symptoms, pain management needs, and medication dosages with your doctor.
Other drugs and treatment
It’s also important to discuss any dental work or other surgical procedures that you might need.
Your surgeon may prescribe preventive antibiotics to reduce the risk of a possible infection from these events.
It is also best to tell your doctor about any 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.
Regular follow-up appointments are an important part of your recovery process.
They give you an opportunity to:
- ask questions
- share concerns
- discuss your progress
- learn about your rehabilitation
Follow-up visits also give your surgeon and physical therapist 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.