What to expect when undergoing knee replacement surgery

Knee pain that interferes with your daily life and isn’t resolved with conservative treatments may require knee replacement surgery. Understand what this procedure entails so you can go into the operating room with confidence.

Doctor examining knee for knee replacement surgery blog


If we here at Austin Shoulder Institute recommend you undergo knee replacement surgery due to pain and disability, you may be a little alarmed. Surgery is a big step and the process is somewhat mysterious.

The procedure resurfaces the joint that’s damaged by arthritis. Our orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Robert Graham will use metal and plastic parts to cover the ends of your bones that form the joint and the kneecap to provide smoother gliding and reduce pain while improving range of motion and function.

Understand what to expect when undergoing knee replacement surgery so you feel confident heading to the operating room.

Prior to surgery

You undergo a complete medical history and physical exam to ensure your health is good prior to going under anesthesia and the trauma of surgery. The night before surgery, you fast for eight hours (no food, but water is OK.)

Before surgery is also a good time to arrange your house for your recovery. Enlist the help of someone to support you at home, set up a ground-floor place to rest because you won’t be able to go up and down stairs, and place items such as books, television remotes, and the phone within reaching distance.

Plan to stay in the hospital for several nights, depending on your condition.

Day of surgery

You are placed under general anesthesia for the procedure. You may be given a sedative to relax before the anesthesiologist gives you the anesthesia so you sleep through the procedure.

Once you’re safely asleep on the operating table with IV fluids and a urinary catheter, the knee surgery begins. Your surgeon makes an incision in the knee area. They then remove damaged surfaces of your joint and form it to fit the artificial knee. Usually this prosthesis has three parts: the part that resurfaces the top of the shin bone; the thigh bone component; and the bottom of the kneecap.

After these parts are placed in your knee, the doctor closes your incision with stitches or surgical staples. They may place a temporary drain at the incision site to remove excessive fluid and apply a dressing to protect the wound.

Following surgery

You’re then taken to a recovery room for observation and monitoring of your vital signs. Once you’re stable, you move to a hospital room for the duration of your time at the hospital.

Soon after your surgery, a physical therapist meets with you to go over your exercise program. You will likely be given a continuous passive motion machine (CPM) to use during physical therapy. The machine moves your affected knee joint through complete range of motion even while you rest in bed.

The doctor prescribes medication to help control your pain. When you are discharged, you are responsible for keeping the surgical site clean and dry. You’ll likely have some swelling, but ice packs and elevation can help manage it.

The team at Austin Shoulder Institute gives you complete aftercare instructions, including an estimate of when you can start driving again. Your full recovery may take several months, and you will most likely need a device, such as a knee scooter or walker, to help you stay mobile as you recover.

We’re happy to answer any other questions you have about knee replacement surgery before your procedure. Don’t hesitate to call the office or book a consultation using this website.


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