After Your Knee Joint Replacement

Thanks to improved surgical approaches, pain management and pre-surgical preparation, the recovery from a knee joint replacement is very different from a few years ago. McLeod Orthopedic Specialist Thomas DiStefano, MD, offers a picture of what the knee joint replacement patient can expect after the surgery:

Here are key points from Dr. DiStefano’s comments:

After knee joint replacement, a person must have enough control of their leg to resume driving. Generally, that’s 2 to 6 weeks after surgery. If the surgery was on your nondriving leg, you might drive sooner. But you must have control of your leg. If somebody pulls out in front of you, you must have the reflex and skill to protect yourself, as well as the other driver. Returning to work after knee replacement surgery depends on several factors, including the patient’s condition and recovery. Most importantly, it depends on what type of job that they do. Patients, who work in sedentary office jobs, are able to return 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. If a patient’s job requires physical heavy lifting, it may be 3 months after surgery before they can safely return to work.

In cooler weather, we tend to have tighter muscles and a tendency to injure them. As a result, it’s really important to stretch thoroughly before participating in athletic activities. If you can’t exercise outdoors, we still encourage people to exercise year-round with a stationary bike, elliptical equipment or swimming in an indoor pool. We emphasize low-impact strengthening and aerobic exercise to save our joints and keep our heart in shape.

In South Carolina, we have a lot of warm weather for sports. In the warm weather months, we have to be very cognizant of being well hydrated. Take fluids in between playing sports and during competition. Even though it’s warmer, stretching is still important, because most muscle and joint-related injuries could be prevented with adequate stretching beforehand.

When knee joint replacement is done well – technically, well planned, good rehabilitation, and strong effort by the patient – it’s one of the most successful of all surgeries. Done well, knee joint replacement very rewarding for both the patient and the doctor. And it’s a great option if your knee is really worn-out and not functioning like you want.

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