How to prepare for knee replacement surgery
If you’re planning on undergoing a knee replacement surgery anytime soon, know that your recovery time can depend heavily on the preparations you make now. A total knee replacement, or arthroplasty, is a serious event that can have a lasting impact on your life and health. That’s why it’s important to do everything you can from start to finish to ensure a full, speedy recovery.
A total knee replacement can help relieve pain and discomfort and restore function in severely diseased knee joints. During the replacement procedure, the surgeon removes any damaged tissue — bone, cartilage, etc. — from your thighbone, shin bone (tibia) and kneecap. He or she then replaces that tissue with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers. This artificial joint behaves like your knee joint would, rolling and gliding as it bends. You can work with your doctor to choose a knee joint design that works best for someone of your age, weight and activity level.
Why is it done?
In most cases, patients opt for a total knee replacement because of severe pain caused by osteoarthritis. They usually have trouble walking, climbing stairs and getting in and out of chairs. They might experience moderate or severe knee pain even when they’re not moving.
If your doctor has decided that a total knee replacement is necessary in your case, he or she will usually schedule the surgery four to six weeks in advance, giving you plenty of time to prepare physically and mentally.
How to prepare for a total knee replacement
Recovering from a total knee replacement is a prolonged process that may involve some pain and discomfort. However, there are some preparations you can make beforehand that can significantly speed up your recovery.
- Make a plan for several weeks of post-surgery life. Acquire a pair of crutches or a walker, arrange hospital transportation and make sure someone will be available to help you with everyday tasks like cooking, bathing and doing laundry. If you live in a two-story home, move all your living essentials to the first floor so you won’t have to climb stairs. You may even consider installing safety features like shower handrails, stairway handrails or a toilet-seat riser. Make sure you have a stable chair and a footstool to elevate your leg, and remove any loose rugs or cords.
- Create a list of questions for your doctor. Some things you might want to find out include: how long the surgery will be, what type of anesthesia you’ll need, what rehabilitation will look like for you, whether you should bank blood before the procedure, how long you’ll be away from work, etc. Remember to write down the doctor’s answers.
- Get in shape. If you can, try to work out before your surgery. Being physically fit can speed up your recovery, and the less you weigh, the less stress your new knee will have to endure. Plus, the added muscle can help your body adapt to the implant and withstand rehabilitation better. Improving your upper body strength will be especially helpful if you will be using a walker or crutches. Some good pre-surgery exercises to try include: knee bends, leg slides, sitting kicks, lying kicks, straight leg raises, ankle pumps and circles, thigh squeezes, heel slides and chair pushups.
- Stop smoking. Smoking can slow down your recovery and prevent healing. It also raises the risk of surgical complications.
- Practice your post-surgery physical therapy exercises. If you learn them ahead of time, they’ll be easier to do later.
- Get help. You’ll need an extra set of hands around the house while you recover. If you live alone, ask a friend or family member to stay with you until you’re back on your feet. See if your neighbor will take over getting your mail and taking out your trash for a little while.
- Write down your medical information. Many people will be asking you for this information in the coming weeks, so it’s best to be ready to share it. Your medical information includes any medications and supplements you take regularly, any existing health conditions you have, your medical insurance information, the name and contact information for your primary care physician and who to contact in case of an emergency.
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. Certain medications can cause excessive bleeding during your procedure. Stop taking all aspirins and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including naproxen and ibuprofen, at least one week before your surgery.
- Consider blood banking. In blood banking, you have blood drawn and saved before surgery to use if a blood transfusion is needed during the operation. Around 20 percent of people undergoing a total knee replacement need a blood transfusion.
Learn more about total knee replacement
If you would like to learn more about a total knee replacement, schedule an evaluation with Onward Orthopedics today by submitting an online form or calling one of our friendly Patient Care Managers at 210.880.3823.