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Knee Replacement Recovery Time

Knee replacement is a major operation in which the abnormal surfaces of the knee joint, altered by osteoarthritis, injury or disease, are replaced by metal and plastic components. Due to the size of the operation and the requirements of the knee to be strong and mobile for normal function, knee replacement recovery is more extended and complex than that for hip replacement.

The knee is exposed in the middle of the leg, with little tissue around it to cushion it and give it blood supply, and along with the restriction of blood supply during the operation the local tissues have taken significant stresses by the time the procedure is over. The local area needs time to rest and recover from this and may be swollen and sore.

However, in many cases there is not significant swelling and the knee is kept straight in the bed initially either free or in a splint for the rest of the day and until the physiotherapist comes along the next day to get you up. The operation and what you will need to do should be well explained in knee replacement patient information which is usually routinely provided at listing for operation.

The day after operation you will get up and walk with the physio and an assistant and the physio will check your knee muscles and encourage regular gentle bending and quadriceps strengthening.

The average time of hospital stay in the UK is around six days for people under seventy, with this rising to eight for the over 75 group and ten days for the over 80 age group. It does take longer therefore to get over this operation if you are older. 67% of you will have an NHS knee replacement in a larger hospital orthopaedic unit.

On discharge you should have good knee control, good quadriceps strength, knee flexion (knee bend) of around 90 degrees and be able to walk in a normal pattern with elbow crutches.

Physiotherapy after your discharge is often routine to monitor your knee replacement recovery, especially if the knee bend is not yet sufficient or the knee won't go completely straight. You may need to attend a physio for a few months until the knee is good, and it may continue to improve independently over a year or so.

You may not feel that the knee is “your own” for at least three months and perhaps longer as it can take a long time for the circulation and feeling in the knee area to return to normal. You may always have a patch of numbness on the outer side of the knee and this is due to the small nerves crossing the knee having been cut during the operation.

You should do well if you follow the guidelines in the knee replacement information leaflet or booklet which is typically provided routinely.

NHS Choices Knee Replacement Recovery pages gives more details and so does Wikihow.

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