Orthopaedic Surgeon


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Life After Knee Replacement

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Success Rates

Total knee replacement has a very high success rate in relieving pain and restoring the ability to mobilise. Overall 95% of these operations are highly successful and we know that at 10 – 15 years after the surgery 95% are still functioning very well. In general the knee replacement will last longer in older and lighter people.

Hospital Stay

You will usually spend 5 days in hospital and then be transferred to a rehabilitation hospital to focus on improving your leg strength and knee range of movement. Crutches or other walking aids may be needed for several weeks but many people are down to a walking stick by about 3 weeks after the surgery. The stitches are trimmed at about 2 weeks after the operation.

Home and Work

I recommend that you continue to wear the compressive stockings until you are walking more than you are sitting down each day. You should also take 1 aspirin per day unless there is a reason not to.

Most people are able to return to full time work by 3 months after the surgery but this is an average only and some people return far sooner and some a little later than this. The more standing and walking you do at work the longer it will take to return to work.

How will I feel?

Your knee will feel warm for up to 6 months after the operation and may not feel like it is ‘your knee’ during that time. Strength and flexibility can continue to improve for 12 months after the surgery. Activities such as golf, bowls and gardening are usually achieved 3 months after surgery. The implants are not designed for impact loading so running or joggin for recreation or fitness are not permitted. Doubles tennis, skiing on groomed runs and other low impact exercises are permitted.

Resuming Normal Activities

Once you get home you should continue to stay active. Remember not to overdo it because that may irritate the knee and cause pain for you. You will have some good days and some bad days so don’t be worried about small setbacks.

  • Exercises – You will need to do your exercises religiously for at least two months after surgery. Riding a stationary bicycle can help maintain muscle tone and keep your knee flexible. Do not let your leg rest in a half bent position. Make sure it is fully straight or fully bent at all times. This will make your exercises easier by not allowing the knee to fill with blood or create scar tissue which is difficult to stretch.
  • Airport Metal Detectors – The sensitivity of metal detectors varies depending on the current ‘threat level’ and it is unlikely that your new knee will cause an alarm. The security people may ask to see your scar or run a hand held wand over the knee. I have never known this to be a problem.
  • Sexual Activity – can be safely resumed approximately 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
  • Sleeping Positions – No restrictions at all.
  • Other Activities – Walk as much as you are able to. Don’t push the knee too hard and remember that walking does not replace the exercises you should be doing. Swimming or hydrotherapy are highly recommended. Try not to do any heavy lifting (more than 20kg) or weight lifting if possible.