You may want to make a few simple changes around the house before surgery. This will help make life easier during recovery. Be sure to see your primary care doctor or dentist. Treating health and dental problems ahead of time helps improve healing after a joint replacement. If you’re a smoker, do your best to stop or cut down. Your surgery risks and recovery rate will improve.
Prepare at home
Make life easier and safer after surgery. Reduce household hazards now. Also, limit the amount of reaching and stair climbing you’ll have to do.
Try these tips:
- Prepare a room on the main living level if you normally sleep upstairs, or set things up so you have to go upstairs only once a day.
- Stock up on canned and frozen foods. Store food and supplies between waist level and shoulder level.
- Pick up clutter. Remove any throw rugs and tape down electrical cords.
Arrange for help
After your knee replacement, you won’t be able to drive for the first few weeks. Perhaps a family member or friend can deliver groceries and help you run errands. If you live alone, ask someone to stay with you for a few days after surgery. By planning ahead now, you’ll have less to worry about during recovery.
See your doctor
Your primary care doctor makes sure that you’re in shape for surgery. You may have an ECG (electrocardiogram) to find out what type of anaesthesia is best for you. You also may have a chest x-ray and lab or blood test. Your doctor will talk with you about any health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, that need to be treated before surgery.
An ECG shows your heart rhythm. It is a simple test that takes only a few minutes and causes no pain.
Discuss your medications
Tell your surgeon about all the medications you take, even over-the-counter ones. This is important. Some medications don’t mix well with anaesthesia. Others – aspirin, ibuprofen and blood thinners, for example – can increase bleeding. To avoid problems during surgery, you may need to stop taking certain medications before your joint is replaced.
Finish dental work
Have tooth or gum problems treated before surgery. Also, finish any dental work that is under way. If you don’t, germs in your mouth could enter the bloodstream and infect the new joint. This could delay your recovery. In an extreme case, an infection in the new joint might mean that the prosthesis would have to be removed.
Blood lost during surgery may need to be replaced. Donating your own blood ahead of time is often best, since there is less risk of reaction this way. If necessary, blood can be provided by a blood bank. This blood is always screened to rule out disease.
Your knee replacement surgery
You will most likely arrive at the hospital on the morning of surgery. In many cases, pre-op tests are done days or even weeks ahead of time. Follow all of your surgeon’s instructions on preparing for surgery. When you arrive, you’ll be given forms to fill out. You may also talk with the anaesthesiologist (the doctor who gives the anaesthesia), if you haven’t done so already. It’s normal to feel a little nervous, but rest assured: this is a common surgery that tends to have very good results.
Preparing for surgery
You will be told when to stop eating and drinking before surgery. If you take a daily medication, ask if you should still take it the morning of surgery. At the hospital your temperature, pulse, breathing and blood pressure will be checked. An IV (intravenous) line may be started to provide fluids and medications needed during surgery.
Risks and Complications
As with any surgery, total knee replacement has possible risks and complications. These include:
- Reaction to the anaesthesia
- Blood clots
- Damage to nearby blood vessels, bones or nerves
- Dislocation of the kneecap