Important things to remember in the first six weeks after knee replacement surgery

Things you should do:

  • Find a sleeping position that is comfortable
  • Use walking stick as needed
  • Elevate the leg if you are experiencing a lot of swelling

Things to avoid:

  • Putting a pillow under your operated knee is not recommended
  • Don’t kneel on your operated knee

Wound care

Generally, a wound from knee replacement surgery requires very little care. Most people have sutures that dissolve themselves and do not require removal. Before leaving the hospital, your dressing will be changed. It is important to keep the wound dry for 2 weeks. In some cases, if the wound is inflamed or oozing, oral antibiotics may be required for a short period of time. If this occurs you should contact Professor Walter’s rooms, the Mater hospital or your GP immediately. The wound should be covered until it has healed.

Hydrotherapy

Patients can proceed with hydrotherapy 4 weeks after surgery, if they meet the following criteria:

  • Wound is clean and dry with no scabs, drainage or blisters
  • Wound is reviewed by rehabilitation physician prior to doing hydrotherapy.

Please contact the office if you are at all concerned about participating in hydrotherapy.

Swelling

It is common to have swelling in the knee, lower leg and ankle following total knee replacement. This can remain for up to six months following surgery. The amount of swelling is generally dependent on your activity level.

Stockings

Professor Walter is up-to-date with recent research and does not require routine wearing of TED (thromboembolic disease) stockings. However, if there is swelling or a history of DVT (deep venous thrombosis) or pulmonary embolism you will be asked to wear them for a period of time. You should talk to the rehabilitation staff about your situation, so you know what is best for you.

Pain medication

Patients generally only need Panadol or Panadeine after discharge from hospital. Professor Walter will ask you to see your GP if stronger pain medication is needed, as your GP is in the best position to manage your overall health and all your medications. Professor Walter does not prescribe narcotics to patients after they leave hospital.

Activities

During the first six weeks after your surgery, we recommend limiting your activities to walking with support, gentle swimming in the shallow end once you have been given permission to get the wound wet. We recommend you refrain from exercises such as pilates, golf and social tennis until three months after the date of your surgery. Be aware that it is quite common to hear or feel a clicking noise in your knee in the months after surgery. This usually settles down in time. High impact activities such as running/jogging and activities which put your body into extreme poses, such as yoga, are not recommended at any time after knee replacement. If you are enthusiastic about a particular sport, please seek instructions from Professor Walter, as there are often ways you can modify your movement to keep your knee safe.

Sex

You can have sex whenever you feel ready.

Driving

The Roads & Traffic Authority recommends you should generally not drive for six weeks following a hip replacement.  In order to be safe driving a car after a hip replacement, you must be able to control the pedals properly and you must not be taking strong pain medications that could impair your judgement or reaction time. As you get to the six-week mark, ask yourself if you would be able to stop quickly if a pedestrian ran in front of your vehicle. If you feel you could not react quickly enough, wait a little longer.

Travel

It is usually safe to take a short flight a week after surgery as long as you do not have blood clots in your legs. Long flights are best avoided during the first few months after surgery as there is a risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs). If you must travel, we recommend you wear TED stockings, mobilise throughout the flight as much as possible and if possible keep your legs elevated when seated during the flight. If it is necessary to travel long distances, then speak to your GP or Professor Walter prior to doing so.

Infections (and a special note about your teeth)

After joint replacement, (even years after your surgery) pay particular attention to infections anywhere on the body, and deal with them immediately. Pay special attention to tooth decay and mouth infections, as these may be a cause of infection in joint replacement.  If you need to visit your dentist, tell them you have had a joint replacement and give them a copy of the current advice from the Arthroplasty Society of Australia, which outlines recommendations for mouth care after joint replacement surgery.