4 Signs You Are Ready for Knee Replacement Surgery & What to Expect

August 20, 2018

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Curtis Campbell, M.D. contributes to topics such as Orthopedics.

By Curtis Campbell, M.D.

There have been a number of advancements in knee replacement surgery over the years, and even though these procedures are of the most reliable and most successful, it’s completely normal to feel nervous about actually going through with it. If you’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and are still on the fence, here are some key signs that indicate you’re a good candidate for a knee replacement procedure:

  1. The pain is significant. If you have severe arthritis and the pain interferes with your everyday activities, such as struggling to put on your socks and shoes, it’s probably time. Trust your gut, most people know when they’ve reached that pain point and are ready to do something about it.
  1. You explored all other options. Surgery of any kind is not something to take lightly, so it’s important to consider all other options first. Sometimes physical therapy, increased stretching, cortisone injections or simple rest, ice, compression and elevation (also known as R.I.C.E.) could help the pain subside and improve quality of life.
  1. You are low risk. Waiting to have knee replacement surgery is encouraged when people have certain risk factors, like morbid obesity or uncontrolled diabetes, or they smoke. Every surgeon is different, but many won’t operate on someone with increased risk factors, like a body mass index (BMI) over 40, because it’s simply too dangerous. So it is important to have your health in check if you’re going to pursue knee replacement surgery.
  1. You are willing to work for it. Like any surgical procedure, you’re going to feel pain after a knee replacement and it will take time to recover. You have to go into it with a positive attitude and expect to endure some pain for better long-term outcomes. It’s pain with a purpose! Stick to your post-op therapy, work hard, and you will experience the benefits after the healing is complete.

What to Expect After You Commit

Every case is different, but once you discuss all your options with your health care provider and receive medical clearance for surgery, you can typically expect the knee replacement surgery to be complete in about 1.5 – 2 hours. After surgery, patients spend between 1-3 nights in the hospital but can usually get up and move the knee around that same day. Keeping it mobilized is critical, especially during the days immediately following surgery.

Recovery 101

Some medical centers offer in-home rehab since it’s proven that patients recover quicker at home, and that usually entails a nurse and therapist providing in-home care up to 5 times per week for the first few weeks.

Afterwards, people typically transition to an outpatient rehab center to continue working at a strong recovery. If all goes well, and depending on a person’s job type (i.e. desk job versus active job), you can be back to work in 1-3 months (or about 6 weeks) post-surgery.

The most important thing to ensure a healthy and speedy recovery is to do what your physical therapist says. When they’re not there, make sure you are diligent about completing the instructed exercises and you’ll experience the significant relief and greater mobility you’ve been waiting for.

Considering a knee replacement? Schedule an orthopedic consultation with Dr. Curtis Campbell, who is part of Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group and is affiliated with Hackensack University Medical Center.

The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.