Knee Replacement Surgery FAQ

UW Health Orthopedics in Madison, Wisconsin, provides this FAQ for knee replacement surgery patients and potential patients who have questions about the procedure.


Before Surgery


What can I do or not do in the hours before surgery?

  • Do not drink alcohol after 8pm the night before surgery
  • Do not eat solid food after midnight
  • Do not drink milk or juice with pulp after midnight
  • Have nothing to eat or drink four hours before surgery

What should I bring with me to surgery?

  • Crutches/walker
  • inhalers, CPAP
  • Comfortable clothes (sweats/shorts)
  • Non-skid shoes or slippers
  • iPad or laptop

Do not bring valuables to the hospital.


After Surgery


When do I get to go home after surgery?


Patients leave the hospital when their pain is controlled, medical condition is stable and they demonstrate they can use crutches, walkers or canes safely, exit their beds and enter bathrooms safely, walk in hallways safely, and climb/descend stairs safely at home.


How can I prepare my home for my return after surgery?


Prevent post-surgery falls by:

  • Removing throw rugs
  • Clearing furniture from pathways
  • De-cluttering your home
  • Avoiding pets running into your path, water spills, bare, slippery floors, long cords,  and ice on steps and porches

Plan for someone to stay with you to help with meals, child and pet care, and household chores. It's a good idea to prepare and freeze meals in advance.


How long will my rehabilitation take?


Recovery time varies from person to person. On average, after six to eight weeks, you should no longer be using a cane, crutches or a walker. Sticking to your rehab exercises decreases recovery time.


Can I drive?


Do not drive for 2 weeks after surgery, and do not drive while taking narcotic pain medication.


How can I deal with pain after surgery?


Pain-relieving medication is the preferred method of pain control, as well as non-pharmacological pain management including ice therapy, elevation above heart using pillows, deep breathing, distraction and repositioning.


Should I worry about blood clots?


Blood clots can be a serious problem if they develop after surgery. Stay alert for severe leg swelling, pain, and redness and/or tenderness in your calf. Measures to prevent blood clots include TED hose (elastic stockings), SCD/foot pumps, anti-coagulant medication (blood thinners), activity and physical therapy.


How can I recognize potential infections after surgery?


Signs of post-surgical infections include:
  • A persistent fever of 100.5°F (38.1°C) for 24 hours. Fever is common after surgery but does not always indicate infection and should decrease with time.
  • Increase in swelling
  • Increase in redness around incision
  • Increase in drainage from incision

Contact your doctor if you experience any of these signs of infection.


What do I need to know about caring for my surgical incision?

  • You may shower with the dressing on, as long as it stays intact. If dressing peels, replace it and keep wound clean and dry.
  • No creams, lotions, ointments or alcohol near or on your incision.
  • Change your dressing as needed.
  • Clean and dry the area around your incision every day, but do not wash the incision directly. Wash around it gently with soap and water and let it air dry.
  • A small amount of drainage from the incision is normal. If drainage increase or changes color, call your doctor.