The initial phase of healing and recovery from knee replacement is often completed about 8 weeks after surgery. Additional improvements may be noticeable up to 1 or even 2 years after surgery.
To help ensure successful long-term recovery, patients and doctors can work together to address a patient’s unique health circumstances. About 80% of knee replacements last 15 to 20 years or longer.
Caring for the New Knee
People are encouraged to continue doing physical therapy stretching and strengthening exercises on their own several times per week. Maintaining strong, supple muscles will help reduce the friction between the new knee’s surfaces. Less friction means less wear-and-tear on the knee implant, extending its life.
High Impact Activities Are Discouraged
Jumping, jogging, and other high-impact activities are generally discouraged. Exceptions may be made in certain situations. For example, a healthy, fit person who is an expert downhill skier may be told it is okay to ski down easy and moderate ski runs with caution. When exceptions are made, the person should talk to his or her surgeon about the risks and possible consequences.
High-impact activities put the patient at risk for a knee injury and additional knee operations. In general, a second knee replacement is a more challenging operation and carries a lower success rate than a first-time knee replacement.
Joint Awareness and Discomfort
Even when knee replacements are successful, many people experience sensations that make them aware of their new knees. For example, they may notice the knee when going up or down stairs, or when kneeling or squatting.
There may also be lingering discomfort in the knee. It is difficult to pinpoint the underlying cause of this discomfort—it may be related to the new joint itself or a separate problem involving the surrounding soft tissues. While lingering, mild discomfort is typically okay, any new or unexpected knee pain should be reported to the surgeon or another orthopedic doctor.
Taking Precautions Before Dental Procedures
Invasive dental work increases the risk of spreading bacteria from the mouth to the knee implant via the blood stream. If the knee replacement becomes infected with bacteria, it may require surgeries to remove and replace it.
Current medical practice guidelines do not recommend all people who have had knee replacement surgery take prophylactic antibiotics for routine dental cleanings. However, a dentist or doctor may prescribe antibiotics before dental procedures to certain patients.
Following-up with the Orthopedic Surgeon
Patients are typically asked to follow up with their orthopedists 6 months to one year after surgery. Some patients may be advised to continue to check in every year or two. While these appointments may seem unnecessary, they can be helpful; It is possible that the surgeon can detect a problem with or wearing out of the artificial knee before the patient notices any symptoms.