What should I expect during my recovery from bilateral total knee replacement?
This is a common question asked to our knee specialists at Rothman Institute. If you are asking this question, you are probably concerned with how to prepare for a smooth recovery period. It is important to be prepared for recovery before you go into your knee replacement procedure, so our knee replacement team wants to provide you with a step-by-step guide to bilateral total knee replacement recovery.
Step One: Understand Your Procedure
The first step toward a smooth recovery is to gain a better understanding of what you will be recovering from. With a clear idea of the procedure, its goals, and its potential outcomes, you can better prepare for the necessary follow up. When your doctor recommends that you receive a bilateral total knee replacement, take the time to get to know what is involved.
Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you have experienced injury or degeneration of the cartilage in your knees. During the procedure, the arthritic ends of the bones which make up your knee joint are removed and replaced with a new, metal and plastic prosthesis. This artificial joint can emulate the normal function of the knee. Typically, its goals are to relieve pain and restore mobility to the joints.
Step Two: Understand the Timeline of Recovery From Bilateral Total Knee Replacement
To best prepare for recovery from bilateral total knee replacement, it is important to begin with a general idea of how the recovery process will unfold and when you can begin to return to your normal activities. Often, your recovery timeline will look like the following:
- Immediately After Surgery you will be encouraged to begin moving as soon as possible. You will be instructed to follow certain exercises and then get out of bed to start taking supported steps.
- In The First Few Days you will likely be able to leave the hospital to continue stretching and strengthening exercises on your own.
- For the First Several Weeks you will probably be advised to use assistance for walking, such as walker or a cane. You will also need to follow your surgeon's instructions to care for the incisions site.
- About Six Weeks After Surgery you will likely have a follow up visit with your physician, at which point she or he may give you permission to resume most general activities, including driving. You will also discuss a timeline for when you can return to more demanding activities like jogging.
Step Three: Schedule the Help You’ll Need
Based on the anticipated timeline of your recovery from bilateral total knee replacement, you should also make plans for the assistance you’ll need, prior to your procedure. You will need to arrange for a ride home from the hospital after your procedure, as well as help getting settled. You will also need to have continued arrangements for assistance driving, until your doctor gives you the approval to return to this activity, which typically happens 4 weeks after the procedure.
In addition to calling on friends and family members to help you along the way, you can also take a few other preparatory steps. For instance, you can install a safety bar and seat to your shower to add necessary support during recovery. Additionally, make sure you have a footstool or ottoman available to elevate your leg while resting.
Step Four: Follow Post-Operative Instructions
In addition to letting you know when you can resume your normal activities, your surgeon will also give you a series of instructions to follow after your procedure, including wound-care, physical therapy, and a graduated walking schedule. It is imperative that you follow your surgeon's instructions to help promote a swift and effective recovery. Common instructions may include:
- Arranging for necessary at-home care
- Caring for the incision site
- Taking the recommended medication
- Maintaining the appropriate activity level
- Following the recommended physical therapy regimen
- Attending important follow up appointments
For a full list of instructions specific to your situation, talk with your surgeon prior to your procedure. It may also be helpful to share these instructions with a family member who will be present during your recovery period, as they can help you follow through.
Step Five: Enjoy Pain-Free Use of Your Knees
Bilateral total knee replacement procedures offer most patients excellent results in terms of relieving pain and increasing mobility. Patients can typically expect a greater than 95% chance of success at 15 years out from the procedure. So, after you have followed all of the recovery instructions, enjoy your new knees and the pain-free mobility they have to offer!
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