What you can expect

Before the procedure

Knee replacement surgery requires anesthesia. Your input and preference help the team decide whether to use general anesthesia, which makes you unconscious, or spinal anesthesia, which leaves you awake but unable to feel pain from your waist down.

You'll be given an intravenous antibiotic before, during and after the procedure to help prevent post-surgical infection. You might also be given a nerve block around your knee to numb it. The numbness wears off gradually after the procedure.

During the procedure

Your knee will be in a bent position to expose all surfaces of the joint. After making an incision about 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) long, your surgeon moves aside your kneecap and cuts away the damaged joint surfaces.

After preparing the joint surfaces, the surgeon attaches the pieces of the artificial joint. Before closing the incision, he or she bends and rotates your knee, testing it to ensure proper function. The surgery lasts about two hours.

After the procedure

You'll be taken to a recovery room for one to two hours. You'll then be moved to your hospital room, where you'll likely stay for a couple of days. Medications prescribed by your doctor should help control pain.

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

You'll be asked to do frequent breathing exercises and gradually increase your activity level.

The day after surgery, a physical therapist will show you how to exercise your new knee. After you leave the hospital, you'll continue physical therapy at home or at a center.

Do your exercises regularly, as instructed. For the best recovery, follow all of your care team's instructions concerning wound care, diet and exercise.