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Knee Joint Replacement


Physical therapy

Your surgeon will recommend and supervise your knee rehabilitation program, which typically begins 24 hours after surgery. Isometric exercises (tightening muscles without moving the joint) will begin while you are still in bed. You will be instructed to do these exercises a number of times per day. You will be encouraged by the physical therapist to move your ankle and other joints so that you will remain strong.

These exercises will help you regain strength and mobility. The therapist will teach you the safest methods for getting in and out of bed or a chair, on and off the toilet and other ways to protect your joint while you recover.

Right leg example
Example of how to properly sit while using
crutches. Note: The leg must be kept straight.

The day after surgery, you will probably begin walking and exercising your knee joint. The exercises will probably be done twice daily. While in the hospital, the physical therapist will assist you when getting out of bed, standing up, or learning to use a walker or crutches. Your walking distance will gradually increase.

Range-of-motion exercises typically begin on your first day after surgery. Through progressive daily exercises, you may achieve about a 90-degree bend in the knee joint by the time you leave the hospital.

Examples of knee extension exercises

Bending your knee during the exercises may be painful. Pain medication taken before therapy will make the exercises more comfortable. Ice packs, hot packs and other treatments may also help.

The therapist will monitor your daily progress and inform your surgeon.



Knee replacement typically requires a hospital stay of three to five days. Depending on your progress, you could gain independence within one week after surgery. The hospital may provide an elevated chair and elevated toilet, both of which should make it easier to sit. At home, you will need a firm chair with arms.

The therapist will teach you how to dress, get out of bed without help and use a walker or crutches. You will continue strengthening exercises in preparation for your return home. It is important for you to follow your surgeon’s directions throughout your rehabilitation. Arrangements will be made for follow-up visits with your surgeon. It is not uncommon to still experience some pain. The full recovery period normally lasts three to six months.


Home care

Just prior to your discharge, you will receive instructions for your at-home recovery.

Once you arrive home, one of the first things you should do is call the surgeon and make an appointment for a follow-up visit.

Look for any changes around your incision. Contact your surgeon if you develop any of the following:


Drainage and/or foul odor from the incision.


Fever (temperature about 101 degrees F or 38 degrees C) for two days.


Increased swelling, tenderness, redness and/or pain.

Take time to adjust to your home environment. It is normal to feel frustrated, but these frustrations will soon pass. It is OK to take it easy.


Medication/pain control

It is normal for you to have some discomfort. You will probably receive a prescription for pain medication before you go home. If a refill is needed, please call your surgeon’s nurse at least five days before you run out of pills. Please contact your surgeon if you have increased discomfort or pain.


Resuming activities

Since recovery is different for each person, your surgeon will inform you when you can resume activities such as returning to work and driving a car.

You may resume sexual activity at any time as long as you keep all knee precautions in mind.

As you heal, it’s important to remain active–but don’t overdo it. It generally takes three to four months before you can begin low-impact activities such as walking, golfing, bowling and swimming. Jogging, high-impact aerobics and contact sports should be avoided. Although your new knee is made of durable materials, it is still vulnerable to wear and tear. As you progress, ask your surgeon for guidance on activities.

Please seek advice on future activities from your orthopaedic surgeon.


Special instructions

You may be seen six weeks, five months and one year after your surgery. Your surgeon may request to see you once a year after the first year, even if you are not having problems.

Any infection must be promptly treated with proper antibiotics because infection can spread from one area of the body to another through the bloodstream. Every effort must be made to prevent infection in your implant. You should always tell all your doctors (including dentists) that you have a knee replacement. If you are to have dental work performed, please call your surgeon prior to having this work done. Your surgeon will most likely prescribe an antibiotic for you. Antibiotics must be used before and after any medical or dental procedure–a precaution that must be taken for the rest of your life.

This brochure is intended to give you some helpful information about knee replacement and guide you through some of the reasons you may want to consider surgery. You should talk with your surgeon if you have specific questions.

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