Knee replacement surgery is a major operation that involves replacing your natural knee with an artificial one made out of plastic and metal. In most cases, a cemented device will be provided to you that is attached with the assistance of surgical cement. Thankfully, knee replacement surgeries have a 10 year success rate that is over 90%. This means that your new knee is very likely to last you at least 10 years with very few complications. However, this success rate is highly dependent on the way that your body heals after the initial operation. You may unintentionally make a few mistakes after your surgery that may affect this success rate. Keep reading to learn about some of these mistakes and how they can be avoided.
Not Moving Your Knee
Many people will feel as though they should keep pressure and stress off their knee after surgery to reduce injury to the replacement knee. However, since the new knee is made from plastic and metal, it does not need to heal before the joint can be used. If you fail to use your knee soon after your surgery, the joint may weaken and so will the muscles, tendons, and ligaments attached to the area that help with movement. You may also naturally favor your other knee. But this can lead to a permanent limp and the leaning of the body as the other tissues compensate for the weakened knee and leg.
You should keep in mind that you will need to remain somewhat immobile for a few days after the surgery, because a seven to eight inch incision is often required to access the knee. Staples close this incision, and the trauma to the area will cause extensive swelling. Significant movements for several days after your surgery can cause the staples to release and the incision to open up. However, a small bit of movement does help to reduce swelling, improve circulation, and increase range of motion after the surgery, and a continuous passive motion machine will help with this. This machine moves the knee joint a small amount for at least a few hours a day after the replacement surgery.
Once you are allowed to go home, you will be given crutches or a cane and you will be instructed to use them throughout the day. You should do this, and you should also make sure to place some direct pressure on the knee within the first three months after surgery according to your doctor's instructions.
Keeping the Knee Continuously Bent
Your orthopedic surgeon will likely inform you to elevate your knee and leg when you sit down and to apply an ice pack to the surgical area when you do this. This will help to reduce the swelling that can occur as the knee is left immobile for a period of time. You may think that this also means securing a pillow underneath your knee as you sleep. Unfortunately, this can leave you with a knee that tends to stay bent once the healing period is over. During the knee replacement surgery, both the ligaments and tendons that attach to your knee become damaged and need to heal. During the healing process, these structures will need to be stretched regularly to make sure that they retain their flexibility. If you keep your knee bent though, then the tendons and ligaments are able to relax for several hours at a time and this can result in overall weakness.
To prevent an issue like this, consider placing two or three pillows underneath the entire length of your leg, or securing a pillow underneath your calf. This will prevent the knee from bending and help with overall elevation. You may also want to think about investing in a leg elevation pillow. This type of device is a styrofoam product that will elevate the legs at a consistent angle as you sleep.
For more information and tips for after or before the surgery, talk with professional doctors and surgeons, such as Joseph P. Spott, DO.