A knee joint replacement can change your life for the better. However, certain preparations in the days and weeks immediately before your surgery will enhance your recovery. McLeod Orthopedic Surgeon Rodney Alan, MD, describes those preparations.
Here’s a summary of Dr. Alan’s comments:
Deciding who is appropriate for total knee arthroplasty is more complicated than one might think. We try to identify patients with symptomatic arthritis – arthritis that is painful and affects activities of daily living and is made worse by activity.
We also want to make sure that the patient has failed non-operative management, including anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, steroid injections or gel injections. We also want to make sure that the patient is likely to successfully recover from the surgery. Sometimes patients in their upper 80s and 90s or patients with severe chronic medical illnesses may not be appropriate candidates for joint replacement.
Preparation for total knee replacement involves several phases. First, all patients must understand the procedure and the expected recovery. This requires that patients develop reasonable expectations. Most of our patients stay in the hospital one night. It takes considerable difficulty to leave the house for approximately one to two weeks. Additionally, patients should understand that there will be some pain during the recovery period.
The second phase involves preparing your working and living arrangements for the surgery. This includes talking to your employer, checking your benefits, making sure you have time off to fully recover so you won’t feel rushed to return to work.
It also involves some modifications around your house. If you normally sleep on the second floor of your house, it may be beneficial to move your sleeping and living arrangements to the first floor. If you do the house cleaning, make sure your house is clean before surgery. It’ll be difficult to do the housecleaning for several weeks after the surgery. Make sure you have adequate grocery supplies or pre-cooked, pre-packaged meals to limit meal preparation.
You may also want to talk to family members or people at your church, who can help you in the immediate recovery period. You don’t need someone with you 24 hours a day. However, you might need someone you can call on for groceries, or to help with certain activities.
You also need someone to help you drive for a while. Most patients can resume driving within a month, but I usually recommend that patients not drive until they are off the stronger pain relievers. I recommend that patients recognize that they have some impairment for several weeks after joint replacement, because of limited ability to push on the brake rapidly.