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Top 5 Mistakes After Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement is a very successful surgery and can be an excellent option for people with severe joint arthritis and pain. From not having a postoperative plan to returning to work too early, mistakes after total knee replacement can slow recovery and limit a full benefit of the surgery. Below, Dr. Cory Calendine, a knee replacement specialist discusses the most common mistakes to avoid when preparing for knee replacement surgery.

Woman walking with man after knee replacement surgery

1.    Not having a postoperative plan.

The number one mistake for knee replacement patients is not having a postoperative plan in place. Planning for discharge should begin long before your joint replacement surgery. Often nowadays, patients are having same-day knee replacement or returning home the day following surgery. You have to have a plan in place for how you're going to manage at home after knee replacement. To achieve maximum results, you can't simply go home and sit in bed. You're going to have to get up, move around early and often. Taking into consideration postop limitations, there needs to be a reasonable plan to get meals, ambulate around the house and to get to follow-up appointments. You won’t be able to drive right away – and that’s a tough limitation for most patients. It is critical BEFORE surgery to know who will be offering you assistance and how you will be getting around. The surgical team at the Bone and Joint Institute will assist putting together a comprehensive postop plan that will work best for you.

2. Not taking enough pain medication.

As we discuss with every patient, you are going to have pain after your knee replacement surgery. While it is true that every attempt is made to minimize the use of narcotic pain medications, it is important to take the prescribed medications regularly and on-schedule. Inadequately controlling pain can limit activity and slow the recovery process. It is easier to keep pain away than it is to get rid of pain once it becomes severe. The surgical team will outline a multimodal pain treatment plan with you prior to discharge with the goal of controlling pain while limiting side-effect and risks.

3. Doing too much too soon.

This can include engaging in higher risk activity (stairs, uneven surfaces) or returning to more strenuous activities too early. You have to appreciate that your reaction time and endurance will be decreased following surgery. Safety has to remain your top priority. Even when you feel good enough and strong enough for an activity, you have to consider if it is putting you at increased risk for fall or injury. We want you to stay active, but activity that causes significant pain, joint swelling and/or muscle soreness can put you at increased risk off fall and injury. It is possible to do TOO MUCH – especially the first couple weeks after knee replacement. Avoid high risk activities and situations, and protect your new joint to optimize a full recovery.

4. Not doing enough before surgery.

The healthier and more active you are prior to surgery can influence your recovery journey. Some patients choose to even utilize physical therapy services as part of a PRE-hab program to maximize joint strength and range of motion. Patients who participate in preoperative physical therapy will better know what to expect during rehabilitation following surgery. Postoperatively when you're dealing with pain and limited mobility, you're not also having to learn a new skill.

Physician examining patients knee

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5. Going back to work (or strenuous activity) too quickly.

For most knee replacement patients, returning to work takes 8 to 12 weeks. I often encourage people to err on the side of allowing a longer recovery versus returning to work too soon. We want you to have your best chance of complete recovery following surgery. We recognize that there are many factors which influence each persons need to return to work, and the surgical team will help you coordinate the safest return-to-work with your employer or business. As a knee replacement patient, you've dealt with bad arthritis in for a long time and you've now undergone a major surgery. We encourage you to take a little break after (if you can) to let your body heal and recover.

What additional questions do you have about preparing for knee replacement surgery? CONTACT our office today and schedule a consult to discuss treatment options that are best for you.

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Consult Cory Calendine, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon

Above are the top five most common mistakes we see in knee replacement patients. Every patient’s circumstances and recovery journey are unique. Dr. Calendine and the joint replacement team at the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee will help build a treatment and recovery plan individualized for you and designed to maximize your success and quality of life. CONTACT our office today.

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Cory Calendine, MD is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and founding partner of the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee at Williamson County Hospital in Franklin, TN. Dr. Calendine is an expert in Joint Replacement, specializing in Hip and Knee Surgery. From diagnosis through treatment, the Orthopaedic Surgical experts at the Bone and Joint Institute use the latest techniques and technology to improve care for people with musculoskeletal problems. For more information, please contact our office or schedule your appointment today.  
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