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

August 20, 2018

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Stephen R. Rossman, D.O. contributes to topics such as Orthopedics.

By Stephen Rossman, D.O.

Since the first knee replacement was performed in 1968, there have been a number of advancements in surgical techniques, implant materials, and pain management, just to name a few. More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States with very successful results. But this is your knee, and 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, the pain can interfere with everyday activities, such as struggling to put on your shoes and socks, going up or down stairs, or even getting in and out of a car. If this sounds like you, then 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, such as 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. Stephen Rossman (551-996-8867), who is part of Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group and is affiliated with Hackensack University Medical Center and Palisades Medical Center.

The material provided through HealthU 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.