Knee Replacement Risks, Recovery and Exercise Regimens

May 7th 2016

Knee Replacement Risks

Total knee replacement surgery is typically considered a low-risk procedure. Still, there are certain risks involved including complications from surgical anesthesia, blood clots and infections. Adverse reactions to anesthesia include irregular heartbeats, nerve injuries and stomach problems.

To avoid a potential reaction, it is important to advise the anesthesiologist of potential risk factors such as cigarette smoking, prior health conditions or medications that may interact with the anesthesia. Blood clots are most likely to occur within two weeks following the procedure, but can also develop during surgery. Your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medications to prevent blood clots.

Infections are considered rare with knee replacement surgery. However, individuals with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis tend to be at higher risk. In most cases, surgeons prescribe antibiotics prior to and after the surgeries to prevent infection. Additional risks include implant failure and ongoing knee pain.

Knee Replacement Recovery

While recovery periods can vary, patients typically experience significant improvement within a month to six weeks. Patients are usually required to stay in the hospital for at least three days following the procedure, after which they are provided with a walker or crutches to support the knees. In about six weeks' time, many patients are able to walk with minimal support. However, full recovery normally requires physical therapy in order to strengthen the muscles.

Knee Replacement Exercises

While it is common to experience pain and discomfort during the recovery period, exercise is essential when it comes to rebuilding strength and adjusting to the new implant. Patients are typically advised to start exercising within the first few weeks following the procedure. Most patients are instructed to start with short walks inside the home to increase mobility. When the legs feel strong enough, longer outdoor walks are usually recommended.

Patients are also advised to resume with everyday activities such as climbing stairs and performing light housework, as these activities also help to strengthen the muscles and joints. In addition to daily activities, knee replacement surgery patients are typically required to perform specific knee-strengthening exercises up to three times a day that include knee-bending, thigh stretching and ankle stretches. These exercises can be completed at home, or with the assistance of a physical therapist.


Total knee replacement surgery is a procedure in which damaged cartilage and bones of the knee are replaced with artificial metal joints and plastic spacers. Depending on the extent of the damage, the kneecap may also be resurfaced and covered with a protective plastic button. The procedure is typically recommended for individuals with osteoarthritis and those with damaged knees due to severe injuries. If your physician suggests a full knee replacement procedure, it is important to educate yourself on the potential risk factors involved with the surgery and the recovery process, as your activity will be limited for a period of time in order to ensure proper healing.

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