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What to Expect When Going Under the Knee Replacement Knife

Sun, Jul 31, 2022

If you have been diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, your orthopedic physician may recommend knee replacement surgery as a solution for your chronic pain and disability.

The procedure involves the replacement and resurfacing of the joint that is damaged by arthritis, using bio-grade prosthetic parts at the ends of the bones that form the knee joint. Millions of patients have undergone knee replacement surgery with positive results, as it provides a much smoother gliding of the joint, greatly reduced or eliminated pain, and can improve range of motion and function.

Let’s talk about what you can expect when undergoing knee replacement surgery, and where you can go for world-class orthopedic treatment here in Raleigh.

What Happens When Having Knee Replacement Surgery?

Here are the steps involved when you have a knee replacement operation:

Before Knee Replacement Surgery

You will first undergo a thorough review of your medical history and a physical examination to ensure that you are healthy enough for the surgery and are a good candidate for the procedure.

Prior to the surgery, you should prepare your home for your recovery phase. You will need the support of a family member or friend for household chores, and you may want to set up a resting area to use while you recuperate. Be sure to place frequently used items (books, phone, television remote, etc.) within easy reach, and have no-preparation snacks ready on the counter in the kitchen.

Some knee replacements are done on an outpatient basis, but you may need to stay in the hospital overnight if your condition warrants it. Talk to your surgeon about what you should expect.

On the Day of Your Knee Surgery

The night before your procedure, you will start fasting around midnight to avoid nausea the following day from anesthesia, although a small amount of water may be permissible. You will be placed under spinal anesthesia for the procedure, but will also be asleep. Your orthopedic surgeon will make an incision in the knee area, remove the damaged surfaces of the joint, and form it to fit the artificial knee implant. Typically, the prosthesis has three parts: one that resurfaces the top of the shinbone (the large lower leg bone called the tibia), the bottom of the thighbone (upper leg bone called the femur), and the back of the kneecap (patella).

Once these parts are placed in your knee, the surgeon will close the incision with stitches and surgical staples, and may place a temporary drain at the incision site in order to remove any excess fluid. The doctor will also apply a dressing to shield the wound and prevent infection.

After the Knee Replacement Operation

Following the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery room. Your orthopedic doctor will prescribe medication to help control pain while you heal, and you will be provided with complete aftercare instructions.

Soon afterward, a physical therapist will meet with you to discuss your exercise program. The physical therapy program is designed to help you start to move your affected knee joint through complete range of motion as soon as possible.

Once you are discharged from the hospital, you will need to keep the surgical site clean and dry as it heals. Although you will probably experience some swelling, it can be controlled with a combination of elevation and ice therapy. Your physical therapist will explain how to do this properly and without causing further injury.

Full recovery is a process over several months, but most of the physical therapy work is in the first 3 to 4 weeks. The good news after knee replacement surgery is the typically, the harder you work on your physical therapy exercises the quicker you recover.

Knee Replacement Doctor in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, and Brier Creek, North Carolina

Dr. Brett Gilbert is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with advanced fellowship training in hip and knee surgery. He can also provide a second opinion on your diagnosis and explain the treatment options available to you. If you are experiencing knee pain, Dr. Gilbert can provide an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment options for your specific condition that is as pain-free as possible.

To schedule a one-on-one consultation with Dr. Gilbert, call us today at (919) 788-8797 or You can request an appointment with Dr. Gilbert using our appointment request form, or you can self-schedule your appointment here.

We look forward to serving you!

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