FAQ: What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery

Patients undergoing knee replacement surgery often have questions about what they can expect post-surgery. Some of these concerns include what is normal and what isn’t in recovery, as well as long-term outcomes.

Dr. Magee is experienced in using advanced techniques for knee replacement surgery. His goal is to alleviate any concerns patients may have both before and after surgery. These frequently asked questions may serve as a helpful resource for patients undergoing knee replacement surgery with Dr. Magee. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact our office at (801) 533-2002.

Post-Surgery Care

  1. How long will my hospital stay be after knee replacement?

    Each patient has different needs, so length of hospital stay can vary from patient to patient. However, most patients will require a hospital stay of at least one to two days following knee replacement surgery.

  2. How do I care for the incision area after my knee replacement?

    Proper wound care reduces the risk of infection after knee replacement surgery. Dissolvable stitches are placed under the skin to close the wound. You should keep the wound clean and dry, but avoid soaking the incision area in water until it is completely sealed and dried.

    Bandaging the incision area can help prevent irritation from clothing and other materials. You will be instructed on how to properly change your dressing before leaving the hospital.

  3. When do I start physical therapy after knee replacement surgery?

    Patients generally begin putting weight on the knee the day of surgery. A walker, cane, or crutches may be used to assist in walking for the first several days or weeks, until you are able to walk on your own. You may be able to perform physical therapy exercises on your own, or you may choose to continue working with a physical therapist in the weeks and months following surgery.

  4. What is involved in physical therapy for knee replacement surgery?

    The goal of physical therapy is to restore strength and range of motion in the knee. Physical therapy generally starts with weightbearing on the knee the day of surgery and a graduated walking program. Your physical therapist will also give you exercises to improve range of motion and strength. Some patients are able to perform the exercises on their own after a few weeks, while some prefer to continue working with a physical therapist for several weeks or months.

  5. Is swelling normal in the days after a knee replacement?

    You may experience mild or moderate swelling in the knee for three to six months following surgery. Elevating the knee, applying ice, and wearing compression stockings can help to reduce swelling. However, if swelling in the knee is severe, new, or sudden, contact Dr. Magee immediately, as this may be a sign of complications.

  6. What are the potential complications of knee replacement surgery?

    Every surgery carries some risk of complication, even under the best conditions. It is important that patients are able to recognize potential complications so that they can be addressed quickly if they do occur. Potential complications of knee surgery include infection, blood clots, nerve injury, deep vein thrombosis, knee instability, and implant loosening. If you notice anything sign of infection or blood clots, contact Dr. Magee immediately.

  7. What are the signs of infection after knee replacement surgery?

    Signs of infection include: persistent fever higher than 100 degrees; shaking chills; increased redness, tenderness, and/or swelling at the incision site; wound drainage; and increased pain both during activity and while at rest. Contact Dr. Magee immediately if you experience any of these symptoms after knee replacement surgery.

    You should also contact Dr. Magee if you experience leg pain unrelated to the incision, tenderness and/or redness above or below the knee, or increased swelling in the calf, ankle, or foot, as these symptoms can be a sign of a blood clot.

Returning to Activities

  1. How soon after knee replacement surgery am I allowed to drive again?

    Most patients are able to resume normal activities, including driving, within 3 to 6 weeks of surgery.

  2. When am I allowed to return to daily activities after knee replacement?

    Every patient is different, but most patients can return to normal, everyday activities within 3 to 6 weeks of surgery.

  3. How long will it take to fully recover from knee replacement surgery?

    Complete recovery, including return to sports activities, can take several months. It is important not to take on too much too soon to avoid slowing your recovery time.

  4. Am I allowed to run after a knee replacement?

    High-impact activities like running and jogging are generally not recommended. Lower-impact exercises like walking, biking, skiing, and swimming are preferred over high-impact activities. Lower-impact activities can also increase the longevity of your knee implant.

  5. Can I participate in sports after a knee replacement?

    Most patients are able to return to sports like swimming and skiing after a knee replacement. However, you should wait until Dr. Magee clears you for sports activity to avoid complications.

  6. Are there any long-term restrictions after having a knee replacement?

    Once fully recovered, most patients do not have long-term restrictions, although low-impact activities are generally preferred over high-impact activities to lengthen the life of the implant.

Long-Term Outcomes

  1. Will there be scarring on my knee at the incision site?

    While some scarring is possible, proper wound care can minimize the risk of scarring at the incision site.

  2. What if my pain continues after recovery?

    Most patients experience pain relief after knee replacement surgery. Rarely, patients will continue to have some pain after knee replacement. However, high-impact exercises can speed up wear on the implant and cause pain to return over time. Lower-impact activities may be better for the longevity of the implant.

  3. Is it normal to experience clicking in my knee implant?

    Some patients do experience clicking in the implant. This is normal and often subsides over time.

  4. Will I regain full range of motion in my knee?

    Knee replacement surgery may not be able to restore full range of motion for most patients, but the majority are able to almost fully bend and straighten the knee.

  5. How long will my knee replacement implant last?

    The majority of knee implants continue to function well for 15 or more years after surgery.

  6. If I had a partial knee replacement, how likely am I to need a total knee replacement in the future?

    Partial knee replacement implants can have a survival rate comparable to total knee replacement implants. If arthritis develops in another portion of the knee, total knee replacement surgery may be a possibility in the future.