Knee Replacement Surgery Rehabilitation

Soon after your joint replacement surgery, your hospital team will have you up and about, and on the road to recovery. But you won’t go it alone.

We’ll develop a thorough and personalized rehabilitation plan that will continue after you leave the hospital. A team of physical therapists, occupational therapists and other specialists will guide you through exercises and activities to help you regain your strength, flexibility and confidence.

The following information will help you better understand what to expect. You can also access this information any time by downloading and printing the Mercy Guide to Knee Replacement, which outlines everything you need to know from discharge to your first follow-up appointment.
Knee replacement surgery rehabilitation won’t always be easy, but before you know it, you’ll be active again and enjoying life to its fullest.

Leaving the Hospital

You’ll be able to go home from the hospital when you are able to:

  • Get in and out of bed.
  • Get up and down from the chair and toilet.
  • Get in and out of the shower by yourself.
  • Walk with assistance for 100 - to 200 feet.
  • Use the stairs, if you have them at home.
  • Get dressed.
  • Get in and out of your car.
  • Perform your hip exercise program on your own.

Before you go home, we will provide:

  • A prescription for pain medication
  • A prescription for a blood thinner, if your surgeon ordered one. If you aren’t taking a blood thinner, your surgeon may recommend taking an aspirin once a day.
  • Instructions on how to care for yourself once  you are home
  • An appointment for a follow-up visit with your surgeon
  • Arrangements for outpatient or home physical therapy

Driving Home

You will need to prearrange for someone to drive you home, preferable in a roomy vehicle that is easy to get in and out. We don’t recommend compact cars, sports cars or high-off-the ground trucks. Your driver should bring pillows for you to sit on, and you may want to recline your seat slightly. If you have a long ride ahead, we recommend you stop and stretch every 45 minutes or so.

In-Home Rehabilitation and Care

Once you are discharged from the hospital, you may be able to continue the rehabilitation and recovery process in the comfort of your home. Physical therapists, occupational therapists and other medical professionals might be able to come to you.  Your Mercy medical team will let you know upon your discharge.

Physical Therapy Exercise Program

A physical therapist will might be able to visit you at home on a regular basis to help you perform your exercise program. The therapist will assess your range of motion and mobility, and might add exercises as needed. Physical therapy is a very important part of the recovery process. Even when you don’t feel up to it, try your best to participate fully.

Occupational Therapy Program

An occupational therapist might visit you at home to:

  • Teach you the best ways to independently perform daily living activities such as dressing, bathing and getting into and out of bed
  • Conduct a home assessment, and make recommendations on ways to arrange your house and perform activities that increase your independence and safety
  • Determine if aides or equipment might help you perform activities safely and effectively

Swelling Prevention

Some swelling in your knee is normal and should not be a cause for concern. Watch for signs of increased or abnormal swelling each day. Notify your surgeon immediately if anything seems out of the ordinary.

There are several ways to help keep normal swelling to a minimum, including:

  • Use ice packs or a cold compress machine if one was provided to you. The cold helps reduce swelling and relieve pain.
  • Lie down for an hour each day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
  • Keep your feet elevated when you sit. Use a footstool or bench with a pillow under your feet for support.
  • Continue doing your ankle pump exercises even when you are sitting still. These exercises are designed to help reduce swelling and boost circulation.

Caring for Your Incision

Pay careful attention to the surgery site. Keep your incision clean and dry. It is also important that you check the incision daily, and note any significant changes in how it looks or feels.

If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, you should contact your surgeon:

  • A fever over 101°F that lasts more than a day
  • Thick, dark yellow or bad-smelling drainage from the incision
  • Painful redness
  • An incision that is hot to touch
  • Abnormal swelling
  • Problems breathing
  • Chest congestion that lasts more than a day

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Because everyone heals differently or could have other complicating factors, it might not be possible for some patients to return directly home after they are discharged from the hospital.

If you need additional support that can’t be administered in your home, you may be transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. If you need an even higher level of care and attention, your surgeon might recommend a skilled nursing facility. This transition will be arranged by a Mercy surgical navigator.

Conditions or needs that might make it necessary to use inpatient services following surgery could include:

  • Assistance with walking and daily living activities required before your joint replacement procedure
  • Inability to climb stairs
  • Assistance needed to get in and out of bed
  • Assistance needed to use the toilet
  • Difficulty with other activities of daily living such as dressing and bathing

Specifically for skilled nursing facilities:

  • Unable to tolerate three hours of daily rehabilitation activities
  • Unable to participate in daily living activities

With You Every Step of the Way

No matter what level of care you’ll need, your Mercy team will be at your side. Our goal is to make sure your joint replacement surgery is successful and that you recover as quickly as possible. Our greatest joy is to see you regain your mobility and get back to doing all the things you love.