Knee replacement is a very common and effective procedure. But it’s also a significant operation. The timeline to a full recovery is about six months, depending on things like your age and fitness.
Coming up to surgery, however, what many people want to know about are those first few hours and days after the replacement. Namely: when will you be allowed to leave the hospital?
The quick answer is that you will be discharged as soon as it’s medically safe for you to leave – and for most people that’s 1-3 days after their operation. Technically, it’s possible to do everything within a day. But in practice you’ll likely stay in for at least a night, even if you’re having a partial (or unicompartmental) replacement.
So what does the journey from hospital bed to home look like? Here’s a quick overview…
Before the operation
When arrive at your hospital, the medical team will give you a clear outline of what will happen next. At the Sarum Road Hospital in Winchester, for instance, that includes everything from your meal plan and the physiotherapist visit to your likely discharge time – so you can plan your pickup accordingly.
Immediately after the operation, you’ll spend some time in the hospital recovery room. The nurses will make sure you have pain-relief medication if you need it (though the pain-relieving effects of the surgical anaesthetic normally last for about 24 hours). The team will keep checking on your progress, then take you to the ward.
The nature of a knee replacement means you can bear weight on it right from the start, though to begin with this is obviously going to be quite painful. The key thing is to get flexion and mobility into your new knee early on. Even on Day 1, we’ll encourage you to get out of bed and start moving independently (with the help of crutches).
4 key checks
The medical team have four main checks to help them judge whether you’re ready to go home. First, they’ll want to see that your wound is dry (ie, it’s healing as expected). They will also want to know you can bend your new knee – ideally to a flexion of 90 degrees. And finally, you will need to be able to walk on your own (with crutches), including up and down stairs. The team will help you with all these things during your hospital stay.
Before you leave, you’ll spend some time with a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. Aside from helping you to master the crutches, they’ll give you advice about managing everyday activities at home, and some important exercises to work on over the coming weeks. When they or the nursing team are satisfied everything’s OK, you’ll be free to sign out and go home.
It probably goes without saying that you won’t be able drive yourself home from hospital (most people are able to resume driving from about six weeks). So it’s important to have a friend or family member primed to collect you. The first few days after knee replacement surgery can be tough, so it’s worth thinking about home help too. With any recovery after surgery, preparation really is key. The more you can do beforehand to make things smoother for yourself, the better. For a checklist of suggestions, you may find this blog helpful: Preparing for major surgery: 11 things to do now.
Would you like to find out more about knee replacement with Chris Bailey Orthopaedics? To make an appointment with Mr Bailey, call our assistant Cheryl on 01962 8261207, or jump over to the simple booking form on our website. We’ll be really happy to help.