Total Knee Replacement: What to Expect at the Hospital

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Your Recovery

Completed knee replacement surgery

After knee replacement surgery, you will be taken to the intensive care unit or recovery room. In a few hours, you will go to your hospital room. You may see a metal triangle called a trapeze over your bed. You can use this to help move yourself around in bed. You will be very tired and will want to rest. Your nurse may also help turn you as you rest.

You will probably still have a tube that drains urine from your bladder (urinary catheter), and you will be getting fluids into your vein through an IV tube. You may also have a tube called a drain near the cut (incision) in your knee.

You may not feel hungry. You may feel sick to your stomach or constipated for a couple of days. This is common. Your nurse may give you stool softeners or laxatives to help with constipation.

You may have stockings that put pressure on your legs to prevent blood clots. Your nurse will also give you medicine and exercise instructions to help prevent clots.

Most people get out of bed with help on the day of surgery or the next day. You may spend 2 to 7 days in the hospital after your surgery.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how your recovery will begin in the hospital. Each person has a different experience and recovers at a different pace.

What will happen in the hospital?

Pain and pain medicine

  • You will receive medicine to help control pain. Some pain medicines are given through an IV, and some are taken by mouth.
  • Take it as needed, and remember that it is easier to prevent pain before it starts than to stop it once it has started.
  • If you are still in pain after you take your medicine, tell your nurse. You may need new medicine or to get the medicine in a different form.

Other medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will probably give you blood thinners to prevent blood clots in your leg. You take this medicine during your hospital stay and when you go home.

Rehabilitation

  • Your rehabilitation (rehab) will probably begin the day after your surgery. Your physiotherapist will get you started. It may be painful to exercise at first, but your nurse will give you pain medicine if you need it.
  • Over the next few days, your physiotherapist will help you walk, go up and down stairs, and get in and out of bed and chairs. He or she will help improve the movement (range of motion) and strength in your knee. Your physiotherapist will teach you positions and motions that will help prevent your knee from popping out (dislocating). This is a very important part of your therapy.
  • How quickly you regain strength and motion and do things on your own depends on how well you follow your physiotherapy. Your physiotherapist will teach you the exercises, but you must do them yourself.
  • An occupational therapist will work with you. He or she will teach you how to bathe, dress, and do daily activities. You may need tools to help with everyday activities. Tools include shower stools, shoehorns, and long-handled sponges.

Diet

  • You will get liquids at first, but you can begin to eat your normal diet when you feel like it. If your stomach is upset, your nurse will probably bring you bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • You may have more fibre added to your meals to prevent constipation.

Incision care

  • You will have a bandage over your incision. Your nurse will care for this.

Other instructions

  • Your nurse or respiratory therapist will have you do breathing and coughing exercises to prevent problems such as pneumonia. Breathe in deeply through your nose and slowly breathe out through your mouth. Do this 3 times, and then cough 2 times.
  • You may have a device (incentive spirometer) that you suck air through to help keep your lungs healthy. Use this as your nurse or therapist tells you to.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have a cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You are in pain or your pain does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: May 23, 2016