Total Knee Replacement: Procedure and Recovery

DayToDay Team
April 16, 2021

The largest joint in the body, the knee joint, is required to perform most of the day-to-day activities. It is made of the thigh bone, knee cap, and shin bone. The knee is susceptible to injuries or disorders like arthritis. Such ailments make simple tasks like walking, climbing stairs, or getting out of bed difficult.

To counter these, the doctor initially recommends non-surgical interventions like medication, physiotherapy, cortisone injections, limiting motion, and even weight loss. When none of these treatments ease the discomfort, the doctor may recommend a total knee replacement surgery or TKR surgery.

What is TKR surgery?

A TKR surgery or total knee replacement is an orthopedic surgery advised by a surgeon to manage pain and inflammation of the knee joint. This surgery involves capping the knee joints with metal or plastic implants.

TKR surgery is performed on patients based on their type of ailment at any age. TKR is recommended when:

  • A patient has knee pain and stiffness that makes it difficult to perform daily functions
  • A patient has severe constant pain in the knee while resting
  • A patient has knee deformity
  • A patient has arthritis, causing chronic inflammation
  • A patient with all the above-mentioned problems has no relief through non-surgical treatment methods

What are the risk factors for a total knee replacement?

Every surgical procedure comes with some risk factors. For TKR surgery, the factors include:

  • Infection at the surgical site
  • Blood clots in the leg veins
  • Continuation of pain and discomfort
  • Allergy to implant
  • Scarring of the knee
  • Limited motion of the knee
  • Neurovascular damage

What can one expect before the surgery?

Lab Tests and Doctor Consultations: The doctor advises a couple of lab tests to make sure the patient is healthy enough to get the surgery. These include a medical and physical examination, blood tests, urine sample tests, echocardiograms, among others.

Social and Home Planning: is also necessary during this period. Anyone undergoing TKR should have someone assist them for the first few weeks with home chores. Getting some changes like adding hand railing in the bathroom and staircase, chair for bathing, removal of loose cords, shifting to a lower floor without stairs before surgery are beneficial and help navigate through recovery.

What can one expect after the surgery?

After the surgery, the patient is in the hospital for five to seven days. Within the first few days post-surgery, the patient is contacted by a physiotherapist for an exercise program. A continuous passive motion machine is used to initiate physical therapy. Once the patient is back home, the following have to be focused on:

Wound management: The doctor gives instructions to keep the wound or surgical site clean. Instructions on how to bathe and how to bandage the wound to prevent irritation are to be kept in mind.

Diet management: Diet is to be kept in control to avoid weight gain and unnecessary pressure on the knee joint. In some cases, patients may also have a loss of appetite, but a balanced diet with iron supplements can promote wound healing.

Physiotherapy and Therapeutic exercise: A patient can perform physical therapy at home under the physiotherapist’s instructions or seek assistance at a rehabilitation center. Using a continuous passive exercise machine at rest can also improve the recovery.

How can one expedite the recovery process?

The rate of recovery will directly depend on how well the patient follows the doctor’s instructions on post-surgical care. Some factors that help speed up the recovery process include:

Infection Prevention: Apart from making sure that the surgical site doesn’t get infected, the patient also has to make sure that they take their medications on time and report any changes on the wound site with their care coach. Extra care has to be taken considering skin infections and urinary tract infections are common after knee replacement surgery.

Identifying blood clots: A patient can identify embolisms and blood clots by noticing symptoms like pain in the limbs, redness and swelling below and above the knee, swelling in the calf and ankles. Some the patient may also experience chest pain and shortness of breath. In case these happen, the patient should report it to the doctor immediately.

Avoiding rigorous activities: Even though the patient is asked to move and exercise their knee within the first few days after their surgery, they should not indulge in any activity which might take a toll on their body. Activities like driving, swimming, or weight training, should be approved by the doctor first. Patients with a TKR are susceptible to falls and should be extra careful near stairs. Falling can lead to fractures, more surgeries, and delayed healing.

Staying connected with care coaches: Having someone to help emotionally and physically through such times is a boon. Patients should keep in touch with family and friends and not hesitate while asking for help.

Patients can also seek assistance through the DayToDay Health post-surgery care platform. It assists patients and their families with surgical site care and wound management, round-the-clock virtual nursing care, symptom management, medication reminder, daily statistics check, physiotherapy consultations, dietary consultations, psychological coaching, along with access to informative videos and articles.

What is the outcome?

Starting all over again with a new set of knees can be daunting and even stressful. Planning way ahead of the surgery, being prepared mentally and having someone to help out can help accept the situation and look forward to the recovery. Organizations like DayToDay give that hand-holding to their patients virtually and bring world-class health care assistance at a click of a button. Patients now are informed and know what steps to take to enjoy a better and healthier life.

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