Knee Replacement Surgery: Planning Ahead For Your Recovery

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With medical advances (and insurance company limitations) being what they are, patients are typically discharged from the hospital within a few days of having knee replacement surgery. In some cases, this procedure is even done on an outpatient basis. Because knee replacement surgery is usually planned ahead of time and not performed on an emergency basis, you have the opportunity to prepare yourself and your home for your recovery. Here are some things you can do before your appointment to make it easier on yourself during your recuperation.

Talk to Your Doctor

In some cases, you may be able to have your knee replacement done arthroscopically or laparoscopically. What this means is that instead of a traditional long incision, the procedure might be able to be done through several smaller incisions. Depending on your particular case, this can reduce your healing time and minimize your pain. 

Arrange for Help

During the first two weeks or more after your surgery, you will probably need someone to assist you. You will likely be unable to drive and you might need help getting to the bathroom or up the stairs leading to your home. In addition, you will be on pain medication for at least several days, and if the pills make your drowsy or unsteady on your feet, having someone nearby is a matter of safety.

If you already have a spouse or adult child living in your home, see if you can arrange for them to take some time off from work or school, if applicable. Another option is having a relative or friend come to stay with you. If you do not have anyone to ask, you can always arrange for a home health care nurse or aid to visit you each day or a few times per week, depending on your needs.

Make Your Home Conducive to Your Recovery

If your home is already set up to accommodate a walker or wheelchair, then you will not have much to do to prepare it for your recovery. If not, though, it's best to walk through each room prior to your surgery to see what hazards you can eliminate for the time being.

Loose throw rugs and extension cords are easy to trip over and should be moved. If your bedroom is located upstairs, find a way to create a temporary sleeping space on the lower level of your home. Sleeping on the sofa might not be very comfortable, so it might be worth the effort to rent a hospital bed or to get someone to move your bed downstairs for the time being. Also, install safety grab bars in the bathroom, if possible, to prevent falls and slipping.

Meet With a Physical Therapist

You will be shown how to gradually build up your strength again after your knee replacement surgery. In the time right after your surgery, however, you will be in pain and you might not remember everything that you are supposed to do. Meet with your physical therapist before your procedure so he or she can show you the exercises that you will need to do. You can even practice these exercises before you have your surgery, if you are physically able to do so.

Reduce Your Stress

Your recuperation will go more smoothly if you are able to simply relax for a few weeks after the operation. Set up automatic bill payments with your creditors so you won't have to worry about paying bills while you are recovering. Plan for family members to bring you meals, or cook ahead of time and store individual (or family-sized) portions in your freezer. If you are responsible for children, arrange for their care and transportation. In other words, minimize your obligations wherever possible.

Having knee replacement or any other type of orthopedic surgery can disrupt your life for several weeks or months, but the payoff is that you will have better range of motion and function when the surgery is done. Do what you can in advance of your procedure so you can maximize your comfort during the recovery period.