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Before and After Knee Surgery

Coon Joint Replacement Institute at Adventist Health St. Helena is honored that you’re considering us for joint replacement surgery. And we’re committed to your safe surgery and successful recovery.

Several factors influence how well you’ll do after surgery. These include our surgeons’ experience and our hospital’s quality and safety scores.

Another key part of recovery? Your readiness. Patients who take the time to ask questions, perform their prescribed exercises, prepare their home and follow our post-operative guidelines have a better chance of recovering without complications.

The information below will help you understand what to expect before, during and after surgery. For more detailed instructions, read our knee replacement resource guide or contact your patient navigator.

Before surgery

Preparing for your surgery can take a couple months, but it’s time well spent. The following tips will help you get through surgery and recovery with confidence:

  • Prepare for downtime. Schedule your surgery when it’s easier to take time off work, or less disruptive to your family’s schedule. Also, take care of work-related or personal business ahead of time—so you can focus on your recovery instead of your to-do list.
  • Understand the risks. Complications after joint replacement surgery are uncommon but can still happen. Make sure you understand potential risks that come with your surgery. You can take steps to lower some of these risks, including infection and blood clots.
  • Learn from others. Talking to other people who have had joint replacement surgery can help you set realistic expectations and ease concerns. Watch former patients share their experiences.
  • Quit smoking. Need some motivation to finally quit smoking? Quitting now will help prevent lung problems that could arise during surgery. And after surgery, your surgical wound will heal faster with a lower risk of infection.
  • Adapt your environment. Prepare your home before you go to the hospital, so your recovery is safe and comfortable. Stock your freezer with prepared meals, remove clutter from walkways or install a raised toilet seat.
  • Find a helping hand. Make sure you have a friend or family member who can drive you home from the hospital and help take care of you the first week or two after surgery.
  • Practice your exercises. We’ll give you simple exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee. Practicing these exercises prior to surgery makes them easier to do after surgery.

The day of surgery

We’ll give you specific instructions for the day of surgery, so you know when and where to check in, what medicines to take or avoid, and what to pack for your overnight stay. But, your surgery day will most likely flow as follows:

  • Check-in. After you check in with our registration team, you’ll receive an identification bracelet and a hospital gown. Our nurses will check your vital signs, clean the surgical area and start intravenous (IV) fluids.
  • Anesthesia. Just before surgery, you’ll meet your anesthesia team to discuss your anesthesia options. Most patients receive spinal anesthesia. It keeps you comfortable during surgery with fewer post-operative side effects. This means you’re back on your feet more quickly after surgery.
  • Surgery. Most joint replacement surgeries last between one and two hours, including preparation time. Your friends or loved ones will wait for you in our family waiting area.
  • Recovery. After surgery, you’ll spend about an hour in a special recovery area. During this time our nurses will keep an eye on you while your anesthesia wears off. Once you’re awake, you’ll be taken to your hospital room. There you’ll receive pain medicine and other therapies such as ice wraps and compression pumps.
  • Therapy. When you’ve regained feeling and movement in your legs, you’ll work with our physical therapists. They’ll make sure you can bend your knee at least 90 degrees, then help you get out of bed, sit on a toilet and start walking.

After surgery

Wondering what to expect during the first days, weeks and months after surgery? The following tips will help you make the most of your recovery—and your new joint.

  • Transitioning home. Your care team will let you know when it’s safe for you to leave the hospital, with the help of a friend or loved one. You’ll be given prescriptions for pain medicine, antibiotics or other medications as needed. You may also receive equipment recommended by your physical therapist, such as a walker, cane or bedside toilet.
  • Healing. You’ll need to take special care of yourself the first couple of weeks after surgery. Use ice packs to relieve swelling, get plenty of rest and avoid smoking. Keep your surgical incision clean and dry and watch for signs of infection.
  • Increasing activity. Continue your prescribed daily knee exercises. They’re designed to increase leg strength, flexibility and function—and are a vital part of regaining mobility. Your doctor will let you know when it’s okay to resume driving, regular exercise and other activities. Long term, you’ll want to avoid high-impact activities such as distance running, skiing and contact sports. Low-impact exercise like cycling, swimming, golfing and walking will help your new joint last much longer.
  • Follow-up visits. It’s important for you to attend your follow-up visits after surgery. During those visits, we’ll evaluate your recovery, including knee range of motion. Follow-ups should be conducted at three weeks, six weeks and six months after surgery. The patient navigators are also available by phone anytime you have questions or concerns between visits.
  • Avoiding metal detectors. Because knee implants contain metal components, you’ll probably set off the security system at airports, concert venues and other secure places. The good news is, people no longer need to carry cards confirming they’ve had joint replacement surgery. Simply let the security officer know about your implant and they can perform an alternative screening.
  • Long-term dental care. For the rest of your life after knee replacement, you’ll need to take a special “prophylactic” antibiotic prior to having any dental cleaning or procedure. This helps prevent mouth bacteria from reaching your implant and causing an infection. Your dentist will provide you with a prescription for the antibiotic prior to each appointment.

Remember, the success of your joint replacement strongly depends on how well you follow your surgeon’s instructions. As time passes, you should experience a dramatic reduction in joint pain that allows you to get back to doing what you love.

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