What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

During the procedure, your knee is in a bent position so that all surfaces of the joint are fully exposed. After making an incision about 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) in length, your surgeon moves aside your kneecap and cuts away the damaged joint surfaces.

After the joint surfaces are prepared, the surgeon inserts and attaches the pieces of the artificial joint. Before closing the incision, he or she bends and rotates your knee, testing and balancing it to ensure that it functions properly. Expect knee replacement surgery to last about two hours.

After knee replacement surgery

After surgery, you're wheeled to a recovery room for one to two hours. You're then moved to your hospital room, where you typically stay for a couple of days before going home. You may feel some pain, but medications prescribed by your doctor should help control it.

During the hospital stay, you're encouraged to move your foot and ankle, which increases blood flow to your leg muscles and helps prevent swelling and blood clots. You may need to receive blood thinners and wear support hose or compression boots to further protect against swelling and clotting.

The day after surgery, a physical therapist shows you how to exercise your new knee. During the first few weeks after surgery, you're more likely to experience a good recovery if you follow all of your surgeon's instructions concerning wound care, diet and exercise. Your physical activity program needs to include:

  • A graduated walking program — first indoors, then outdoors — to gradually increase your mobility
  • Slowly resuming other normal household activities, including walking up and down stairs
  • Knee-strengthening exercises you learned from the hospital physical therapist, performed several times a day
Oct. 30, 2012