Having a total knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, is a significant event in anyone’s life, and recovering from such a surgery involves a lot of care and preparation. The recovery phase after such a surgery is critical to determine the success of the procedure. The hospital stay after a total knee replacement surgery lasts for one to four days, during which you will be resting, taking care of the knee, understanding your care protocol from your medical team, and also starting physical therapy. Once you return home after your knee replacement surgery, you will not be in a condition to start making any major changes, so it is best if you prepare for your recovery before the knee replacement surgery itself. Here’s how you can prepare for your recovery after a knee replacement surgery.
5 Ways to Prepare for Your Recovery After a Knee Replacement Surgery
A total knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure that replaces a knee damaged by arthritis or any other type of injury.(1,2) Plastic and metal parts are used to replace the injured knee and cap the ends of the bones of the knee joint and the kneecap.(3,4) The surgery is typically recommended for people who have a severe knee injury, or more commonly, have severe arthritis.(5,6,7)
The recovery period after a total knee replacement surgery is critical to determine the success of your surgery. You will stay in the hospital for one to four days after the surgery. During your hospital stay, you will be busy taking care of your new knee, resting up, understanding how to take care of the knee once you are home, and also beginning physical therapy. It is important to realize that there won’t be any time at the hospital to plan your recovery details for when you return home. This is why it is best to get your home ready for recovery well before you go for your surgery.(8,9)
Here are some tips to help you prepare for your recovery after a knee replacement surgery.
Declutter Your Home
When you are recovering from a total knee replacement surgery, you need to ensure that your home is a safe place to come back to. Having plenty of space to move around in your house should be the top priority.
Before leaving home for the surgery, take a good look around your home and try to imagine whether there is enough space to fit a walker. It is also a good idea to take a measuring tape and ensure that there are at least three feet of space for you to walk through with a walker.
To make more space, consider doing the following:
- Remove any rugs as these are tripping hazards.
- Move your furniture to the side – do not keep anything in the middle of the rooms.
- Keep all electrical cords and wires out of the way.
- Box up anything you won’t be needing, including small tables and tables.
The time before your surgery is the perfect opportunity to clean up your home. Vacuuming, mopping, and dusting is activities that will remain off-limits for some time after your surgery.(10)
Prepare Your Recovery Area
Remember that you will return home after the surgery with mobility restrictions. You will be having to sit around quite a lot during the first few weeks after your surgery and return home. It is an excellent idea to prepare a recovery area in the house. Having a recovery area, usually in the living room, with a sturdy and comfortable chair or sofa to relax in. It is best to have a chair that is high enough so that it is easy for you to sit down and get up from it. It should have a solid back to ensure you don’t fall and arms for added comfort.
In such cases, having a recliner is usually the best choice because you can easily elevate your legs as well. If you don’t have a recliner, keeping a sturdy footstool in front of the chair will help keep your legs elevated.
Any recovery area you choose should contain all the necessary items within arm’s reach in case of emergency. Here are some things you should be having near your chair:
- Phone/mobile phone and its charger
- Television remote
- Eyeglasses, if you wear them
- Water bottles
- And anything else that you may need to make your recovery more comfortable.
Have Fall Prevention Equipment Installed At Home
Even though you won’t be 2walking around much right after having a total knee replacement surgery, but there will be instances when you will need to move around the house. Also, walking a little every day is an essential part of your recovery process.
A need for space and a loss of balance when one of your legs is affected can dramatically increase the risk of a fall. So apart from decluttering and making space in the house, here are some other preventive measures you should follow:(11)
- Install a handrail in the shower or bathtub to help you hold on in case you lose your balance.
- You should also install a handrail next to the toilet to help you sit and get up.
- Use a raised toilet seat.
- Have a bath mat in place to prevent slipping.
- Add texture to any slippery floors to prevent falls.
- Cover any outside steps with ramps.
- Wear nonskid socks around the house.
- Use a walking device like a walker or cane until you regain your balance and are more stable.
- Install nightlights in all areas.
Have Your Sleeping Place Ready
Having a good night’s sleep is essential to your recovery process after a total knee replacement surgery. However, you may need to make certain adjustments to your sleeping quarters. Keep in mind that you will not be able to climb stairs daily after your knee surgery. So if your bedroom involves you climbing stairs, you should consider converting your living room or another room on the ground floor into a temporary bedroom.
However, don’t spend all your time in bed. Getting up and walking around is important for your recovery, as your physical therapist will also tell you. Try to avoid sleeping in the day time because making a distinction between night and day will help you continue to maintain a regular sleeping pattern once you are recovered.(12,13)
Stock Up On Food Supplies
Remember that you will not be able to make grocery runs to the market for some time after your surgery. Even though you may not feel like eating much before and right after your surgery, but you should still make some preparations and stock up on food supplies so that you can have a healthy diet once you come back home for your recovery.
If you live alone, here are some tips to help you:
- Stock up your fridge and freezer with ready-to-eat meals.
- Ensure that you have access to various online delivery of groceries or ready-made foods.
- It is a good idea to invite someone to help you cook. Having someone to share a meal with can help you continue to have a social life during your recovery.
- There is no shame in asking for help. Take the help of a friend or family member for cooking or shopping if needed.
- Keep a stool or chair in the kitchen so that you can sit down from time to time while preparing your meals.
It is best to plan ahead to make well-balanced meals that include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating healthy and nutritious food can help enhance your mood and also help you recover faster.(14)
Remember that the better prepared you are before your surgery, the better you will be able to cope with your day to day life during your recovery period. It will also be easier for you to cope with any potential problems and complications if they should arise.
If you do not prepare ahead, you may face difficulties once you return home after the surgery. This could increase the likelihood of anxiety, depression, and you are also at a greater risk of infection.
Make sure to talk to your doctor about all the post-surgery recovery steps you need to take after your return from the hospital, and pay attention to how you are supposed to take your medications and what exercises your physical therapist prescribes.
You can never be prepared too much. The better prepared you are, the greater is the likelihood of having a smooth recovery process.
- Harris, W.H. and Sledge, C.B., 1990. Total hip and total knee replacement. New England Journal of Medicine, 323(11), pp.725-731.
- Judge, A., Arden, N.K., Cooper, C., Kassim Javaid, M., Carr, A.J., Field, R.E. and Dieppe, P.A., 2012. Predictors of outcomes of total knee replacement surgery. Rheumatology, 51(10), pp.1804-1813.
- Cameron, H.U., 1991. The patella in total knee arthroplasty. In Total Knee Replacement (pp. 199-210). Springer, London.
- King, A. and Phillips, J.R., 2016. Total hip and knee replacement surgery. Surgery (Oxford), 34(9), pp.468-474.
- Chmell, M.J. and Scott, R.D., 1999. Total knee arthroplasty in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: an overview. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®, 366, pp.54-60.
- Keefe, F.J., Caldwell, D.S., Martinez, S., Nunley, J., Beckham, J. and Williams, D.A., 1991. Analyzing pain in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Pain coping strategies in patients who have had knee replacement surgery. Pain, 46(2), pp.153-160.
- Woolhead, G.M., Donovan, J.L. and Dieppe, P.A., 2005. Outcomes of total knee replacement: a qualitative study. Rheumatology, 44(8), pp.1032-1037.
- Husted, H., Holm, G. and Jacobsen, S., 2008. Predictors of length of stay and patient satisfaction after hip and knee replacement surgery: fast-track experience in 712 patients. Acta orthopaedica, 79(2), pp.168-173.
- Smith, I.D.M., Elton, R., Ballantyne, J.A. and Brenkel, I.J., 2008. Pre-operative predictors of the length of hospital stay in total knee replacement. The Journal of bone and joint surgery. British volume, 90(11), pp.1435-1440.
- Bateni, H. and Maki, B.E., 2005. Assistive devices for balance and mobility: benefits, demands, and adverse consequences. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 86(1), pp.134-145.
- Cremeans-Smith, J.K., Millington, K., Sledjeski, E., Greene, K. and Delahanty, D.L., 2006. Sleep disruptions mediate the relationship between early postoperative pain and later functioning following total knee replacement surgery. Journal of behavioral medicine, 29(2), pp.215-222.
- Gong, L., Wang, Z. and Fan, D., 2015. Sleep quality effects recovery after total knee arthroplasty (TKA)—a randomized, double-blind, controlled study. The Journal of arthroplasty, 30(11), pp.1897-1901.
- Font-Vizcarra, L., Lozano, L., Ríos, J., Forga, M.T. and Soriano, A., 2011. Preoperative nutritional status and post-operative infection in total knee replacements: a prospective study of 213 patients. The International journal of artificial organs, 34(9), pp.876-881.