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UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital

What to Expect After Total Knee Replacement Surgery

Joint Replacement Care Plan

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Physical Therapy
After undergoing total knee replacement surgery at UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, you will begin physical therapy on the first day after surgery. The therapist will come to your room. You will learn how to:
  • Move comfortably in bed
  • Get in and out of bed safely
  • Walk and begin bending your knee
  • Use a walker or crutches to walk and go up and down stairs
  • Get in and out of a car safely

A CPM (continuous passive motion) machine will be brought to your room. This machine will assist you in bending your knee. The physical therapist and nursing staff will help you with using the machine. 

Discuss taking pain medicine with your nurse before your PT. It's also a good idea to have a family member or friend attend one therapy session with you, so that they can see how you walk and what exercises you are doing. 

In the hospital, PT is usually scheduled twice a day to improve the strength and flexibility of your leg. Once home, the exercises should be continued two to three times a day for three months. You then switch to a maintenance program doing the same exercises three times a week for at least a year. 

You will need physical therapy after you go home. The social worker or case manager will help you arrange this. 

Pain Relief 

Your pain will be managed with a combination of powerful and effective pain pills. If you cannot take pills, you will be given pain medication through your IV. You should still expect some pain after your surgery. Your nurses and doctors will assess your pain throughout your stay and adjust the medicine as needed to increase your comfort level. 

Blood Clot Prevention 

People who have knee surgery are at higher risk for getting blood clots. To decrease the risk of a blood clot, you will be taking medicine to thin the blood. Some medicines require your blood to be drawn in order to check its "thinness." If your blood needs to be drawn, a nurse case manager or social worker will make arrangements. They will discuss the details with you before you go home. 

You will also need to wear elastic stockings for six weeks after your surgery. You should remove them two times each day for one hour. You should always sleep with them on.