In the surgical ward, you may be given a switch that enables you to self-administer painkillers at a safe rate. You may also be given oxygen through a mask or tubes. If necessary, you will be given a blood transfusion.
You will have a large dressing on your knee to protect your wound. Various drains will siphon off blood from the operation site to prevent it collecting inside the wound.
Back in the ward, the team will continue to monitor you carefully. You may be allowed to have a drink about an hour after returning to the ward and, depending on your condition, you will also be allowed to have food. You will need help moving position and using a bed pan.
Your wound dressing will be changed regularly until it has healed over.
How soon will I be up and about?
The staff will help you to get up and walk about as quickly as possible. If you have had minimally invasive surgery or are on an enhanced recovery programme, you may be able to walk on the same day as your operation.
Walking with a frame or crutches is encouraged. Most people are able to walk independently with sticks after about a week.
During your stay in hospital, a physiotherapist will teach you exercises to help strengthen your knee. You can usually begin these the day after your operation. It is very important that you follow the physiotherapist's advice to avoid complications or dislocation of your new joint.
It is normal to experience some initial discomfort while walking and exercising, and your legs and feet may be swollen.
You may be put on a passive motion machine to restore movement in your knee and leg. This support will slowly move your knee while you are in bed. It helps to decrease swelling by keeping your leg raised and helps improve your circulation.
When can I go home?
You will be in hospital for 2 to 7 days depending on what progress you make and what type of knee replacement you have had. Patients who have had a half knee replacement usually have a shorter hospital stay.
If you are generally fit and well, the surgeon may suggest an enhanced recovery programme where you start walking on the day of the operation and are discharged within one to three days.
How will I feel when I get home?
Do not be surprised if you feel very tired at first. You have had a major operation and muscles and tissues surrounding your new knee will take time to heal. Follow the advice of the surgical team and call your GP if you have any particular worries or queries. You may want to arrange for someone to help you out for a week or so.
The exercises that your physiotherapist gives you are an important part of your recovery. It is essential that you continue with them once you are at home.
Your rehabilitation will be monitored by a physiotherapist when you attend your appointments at the outpatient physiotherapy department.
You may be given some specific exercises to do. You may also be given advice on taking short walks and carrying out normal household activities, such as walking up and down stairs. These exercises will help restore your movement and strengthen your new knee.
How long will it be before I feel normal?
You should be able to stop using your crutches or walking frame and resume normal leisure activities three to six weeks after surgery. However, it may take up to three months for your pain and swelling to settle down.
Your new knee will continue to recover up to two years after your operation. During this time, scar tissue heals and the muscles are restored by exercise, so it is important to take care and look out for problems such as stiffness, pain or infection.
Even after you have recovered, it is best to avoid extreme movements or sports where there is a risk of falling, such as skiing or riding a bicycle. Your doctor or a physiotherapist can advise you.
When can I drive again?
You can resume driving when you can bend your knee enough to get in and out of a car and control the car properly. This is usually around four to six weeks after your surgery, but check with your physiotherapist or doctor whether it is safe for you to drive.
When can I go back to work?
This depends on your job, but you can usually return to work 6-12 weeks after your operation.
When can I do housework?
For the first three months, you should be able to manage light chores, such as dusting and washing up. Avoid heavy household tasks such as vacuuming and changing the beds. Do not stand for long periods as this may cause ankle swelling and avoid stretching up or bending down for the first six weeks.
How will it affect my sex life?
You may find that having the operation gives your sex life a boost. Your surgeon can advise when you can have sex again. As long as you are careful, it should be fine after six to eight weeks. Avoid vigorous sex and kneeling positions.
Will I have to go back to the hospital?
You will be given an outpatient appointment to check on your progress, usually 6-12 weeks after your knee replacement. The surgeon will want to see you again a year later, and every five years after that to X-ray your knee and make sure it is not beginning to loosen.
Will I need another new knee?
The knee can be replaced as often as necessary, although results tend to be slightly less effective each time. Recovery may take longer, but once you have recovered, the results are usually good.