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What You Need to Know About Total Knee Replacement Protocol

There are over 750,000 knee replacements performed every year in the United States, but if you’re still on the fence about whether or not to book a knee replacement, you’re not alone. Many people want relief from persistent pain and wish they had stronger, healthier knees but aren’t sure whether it’s the right time to ask their doctor about knee replacement surgery.

Man on outdoor stairs stops and holds his knee in pain.

We think having a full picture of the total knee replacement protocol — everything from booking an initial consultation to recovering from your procedure — helps our patients make clearer decisions about their health. This guide will help you decide if knee replacement surgery is right for you.

When Is It Time to Book a Total Knee Replacement?

Whether you need a replacement or not, persistent knee pain is a sign to make an appointment with a doctor. Specifically, we recommend making an appointment with a healthcare provider specializing in orthopedics because they will have expertise that regular doctors do not. 

 Patient who got their knee replaced at physical therapy with crutches.

During your first appointment, the healthcare provider will diagnose the cause of your knee pain. If the injury seems minor, the doctor may prescribe various non-invasive treatments to see if you can avoid surgery. At SI Ortho, we believe that surgical intervention should always be a last resort. 

In other words, we recommend that patients with knee pain always try conservative treatments first. For minor conditions, your doctor may prescribe any of the following non-invasive measures: 

  • Apply ice to the knee several times a day
  • Compress the knee using a wrap or bandage
  • Keep the knee above your heart as much as possible
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen
  • Cease physical activity

If you have tried non-surgical treatments with no or limited success or if you received a diagnosis that eliminates the possibility of conservative treatment, it may be time to look into a total knee replacement. We recommend that patients fitting the following profiles book an appointment to learn more about total knee replacement protocol from one of our specialists:

A senior man sits on the steps as his painful knee prevents him from continuing.

  • You have persistent, long-lasting pain. If you are consistently in pain, even after physical therapy and other conservative treatment options, we recommend you consider consulting with your doctor to learn about the benefits of a knee replacement. 
  • Your knee pain interferes with your life. If knee pain interferes with normal daily activities like walking, sleeping, doing chores, or going to work, it is a sign to consider knee replacement surgery. 
  • You’ve suffered a knee injury. Whether you injured your knee during physical activity or were born with a knee deformity that impedes normal function, a total knee replacement is a viable option. 
  • You want to stay physically active. Knee pain can severely limit the scope of your physical activity, making it more difficult for you to remain active. With an average lifespan of 20 years, an artificial knee can provide a lifetime of comfort.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Knee Replacement Surgery

Like any other surgery, there are pros and cons to having a knee replacement.

A knee replacement has three primary benefits: better mobility, less pain, and a higher quality of life. With a new knee, you can remain active with vastly reduced pain levels than before the surgery. Patients experience a much higher quality of life after their procedure thanks to improvements in their mobility.

However, no surgery is without risk. A small number of patients (around 2%) experience complications in the form of blood clots, infection, or stiffness from the newly formed scar tissue. Patients will also need 3-4 weeks of physical therapy to strengthen their new knee and prepare it for everyday use. 

Preparing for a Total Knee Replacement

Now that you know some of the ins and outs of a total knee replacement protocol, what should you do in the weeks or months leading up to the surgery? Here are some steps you can take to help the procedure go smoothly and assist your healing process. 

Preparing for the Operation

Before the operation, it is essential that you follow your surgeon’s instructions–they will likely give you a checklist to do before you go into surgery. Such pre-operative tasks may include:

  • Make an appointment with your primary care physician and any other specialists who treat you to obtain preoperative medical clearance. 
  • Seven days before the operation, stop taking any NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). 
  • If you take blood thinners, talk to the doctor who prescribed them about stopping them before the operation. 
  • Stop taking most supplements seven days before surgery. 
  • Follow any bathing and soap instructions given to you by your healthcare provider.
  • The night before the surgery, do not eat or drink anything after midnight. 

Preparing for Post-Op

As soon as you know you will get your knee replaced, we recommend you start strengthening your upper body. Because your knee will be unusable for some time, you must rely on walking aids while it heals. Exercises to prepare for a total knee replacement will make moving around much more manageable. In addition, working out to strengthen your upper body may also result in weight loss, reducing strain on your healing knee. 

We also recommend that you remove any tripping hazards from your house to prevent falling and reinjuring your healing knee. Similarly, arrange a one-level living space to prevent yourself from having to move up and down stairs. 

Where to Book Your Knee Replacement

If you have persistent knee pain that has failed to respond to conservative treatments, you may be a candidate for a total knee replacement. To learn more about the procedure, including what to expect during the recovery process and beyond, make an appointment with one of our board-certified orthopedic surgeons. 

Posted in: Knee