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Post-operative questions about knee replacement

Post-operative questions about knee replacement vary, depending on the type of knee replacement surgery you have had. For instance total knee replacement on a same-day outpatient basis differs greatly from that conducted in a hospital setting. Still, many of the concerns are the same and we don’t want you to be worried with post-operative questions about knee replacement, so we have addressed some of the common concerns in this article.

Will I need blood after my knee replacement surgery?

Although blood transfusions are very uncommon, you may need blood either during or after the surgery.  It has been shown that if you have a low blood count (anemia) prior to surgery (Hb <13g/dl), you will probably need blood after surgery.  Pre-op storage of your own blood only increases your chance of needing additional blood after surgery and we rarely request this. 

Also, a low blood count coming into surgery results in post-op fatigue and lowers the chance of walking the day of surgery.  Our transfusion rate in patients with a normal blood count pre-op is extremely low. 

Where and how long will my scar be after knee replacement surgery?

The scar will be straight down the center of your knee unless you have previous scars, in which case we may use the prior scar. Generally, the incision extends from the top of your patella (kneecap)  to the tibial tubercle (bump on top, front of shin bone). Often this incision is only ~4-5 inches in length. Expect a small area of permanent numbness on the lateral side (outside) of the incision.

Will I need a walker or a cane after knee replacement surgery?

Most patients will use a walker for about 7-10 days and then a cane for a few additional weeks.  It is unusual to still be on a walker or cane after 3 weeks.

Will I need help at home after knee replacement surgery?

Maybe…but unlikely.  Most patients that have done their pre-op physical therapy are able to function well at home without great assistance. Importantly, our program is designed for patients to have a family member (“Caddy”), who has been with you from the beginning and who can help them at home. For the first several days, depending on your progress, you may benefit from someone to assist you with meal preparation, exercise and encouragement.

Preparation ahead of time, before your surgery, can minimize the amount of help needed after surgery.  Having the laundry done, house cleaned, yard work completed, clean linens on the bed, and single portion frozen meals will reduce the need for extra help. Again, most insurance plans, including Medicare, will not cover professional home care help for activities of daily living.  You will have to provide that kind of help from your own financial resources if you want it.

Will I need a private nurse after knee replacement?

No. You do not need a private nurse in the hospital or at home, but if you want one, we can help you make these arrangements.  Most insurances including Medicare will not cover this type of extra care as part of your benefit plan.

What if I live alone?

Most patients leave the hospital independent enough to function at home without assistance from others. You should, however, make all attempts to arrange for a relative or friend to stay with you for at least the first week after discharge because the home health nurse and physical therapist, which are arranged for you, are only with you for only a short period of the day. Alternatively, many patients who live by themselves with no family or friends to serve as their “Caddy” do well enough with the short visits of a home health nurse and/or a home physical therapist who visit you at home.  Usually these professional services are covered by your insurance and Medicare.

Will I need physical therapy when I go home?

Yes. You will typically need home physical therapy for about 1 week. After one week, you are encouraged to utilize outpatient physical therapy. Your orthopaedic team will help you arrange for outpatient physical therapy shortly after your first post-op visit in our office. It helps to make the transition from home therapy to outpatient therapy by visiting the outpatient therapy facility prior to surgery and set up an appointment schedule with them. Outpatient therapy will usually start about 10 days from the surgery date. The length of time required for this type of therapy varies with each patient but typically goes for 4-6 weeks.

How often will I need to be seen following the surgery?

You will be seen for your first post-operative office visit ~10 days after surgery to check your wound, remove the staples and review the forthcoming rehab protocol.  Typically, our physician assistant performs this review.  Additional visits at 6 weeks post-op and at 1 year as directed by your surgeon are typical. If any concerns arise, additional visits will be needed to give you the best care.

For more information on this subject, call The Zehr Center for Orthopaedics at 239-596-0100 or visit www.zehrcenter.comThe information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments, or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read on this topic. 

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