In orthopedic surgery, knee replacement is considered a standard procedure, transforming the lives of those with severe arthritis and other debilitating knee conditions. However, as with any surgical intervention, the journey doesn’t end in the operating room; the postoperative period is equally significant in ensuring successful outcomes.
While knee replacements can offer immense relief and improved quality of life, patients’ choices after their surgeries can profoundly impact the results. Hence, understanding and avoiding common post-surgery mistakes is vital.
What is Knee Replacement Surgery?
Knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, is a medical procedure that involves removing damaged or diseased parts of the knee joint and replacing them with artificial components or prosthetics. It’s a treatment option designed to relieve pain and improve function in severely diseased knee joints, most commonly due to osteoarthritis or injury.
How Exactly Does Knee Replacement Surgery Work?
Under general or spinal anesthesia, the surgeon makes an incision in the front of the knee to expose the joint. The damaged parts of the joint – specifically the ends of the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), and often the back of the kneecap – are carefully removed, preserving as much healthy bone and tissue as possible. These surfaces are then replaced with a prosthesis made from metal and high-grade plastics that mimic the function of a healthy knee. Once the surgeon ensures the components are correctly fitted, and the knee can bend and straighten fully, the incision is closed, marking the end of the procedure.
If you want to learn more about Knee Replacement Surgery, check here:
Top 5 Common Mistakes After Knee Replacement
Navigating the postoperative journey can be challenging, and unfortunately, it’s all too easy to make mistakes that may negatively impact your recovery. Let’s look at the top five common mistakes patients make after knee replacement surgery and how to avoid them.
The drive to regain normalcy after surgery can sometimes lead to overexertion. Patients may try to do too much, too soon, without giving their bodies ample time to heal. Overexertion can exacerbate inflammation, increase pain, and potentially lead to complications such as infection or delayed healing.
What to do instead
The key is patience and gradual progression. Rest is vital in the early stages of recovery. As your healing progresses, you can slowly increase your physical activity level based on your healthcare provider’s guidance. Listen to your body; having excellent and not-so-good days is okay. Remember, recovery is not a race but a journey toward better health.
Neglecting Physical Therapy
Physical therapy might seem daunting, especially when dealing with post-surgery discomfort. However, neglecting it can lead to stiffness, reduced range of motion, and prolonged recovery. Physical therapy exercises are designed to increase joint flexibility, strengthen surrounding muscles, and improve overall mobility.
What to do instead
Adhere to your physical therapy regimen as advised by your healthcare provider. If exercises cause severe pain, communicate with your therapist to adjust the program. Progress might be slow, but consistent therapy will yield significant improvements in the long run.
Incorrect Medication Usage
After surgery, patients are often prescribed medications for pain management, preventing blood clots, and sometimes antibiotics. Incorrect use of these medications, like skipping doses or stopping prematurely, can lead to unnecessary pain, risk of blood clots, or infection.
What to do instead
Always take your medication as prescribed. If you’re experiencing side effects or the medication doesn’t seem to work, consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to the medication regimen.
Ignoring Pain or Changes
While some discomfort and swelling are expected after surgery, ignoring significant pain, drastic changes, or signs of infection can lead to severe complications. Symptoms such as excessive swelling, redness, heat around the knee, or fever should not be overlooked.
What to do instead
Keep an open line of communication with your healthcare provider. Report any concerns or changes you notice promptly. Early detection can prevent minor issues from becoming major problems.
Good nutrition is essential for healing. A poor diet can slow healing, weaken your immune system, and prolong your recovery.
What to do instead
Focus on a balanced diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals to support wound healing and muscle recovery. Hydration is equally important. Consult with a dietician if you need help creating a post-surgery meal plan.
When is knee replacement surgery needed?
Knee replacement is generally considered when less invasive treatments, such as medication, physical therapy, or walking support, are no longer helpful. This surgery is needed for individuals suffering from severe knee pain or stiffness that hinders their daily activities: walking, climbing stairs, getting in and out of chairs, or even resting. It’s also an option for those with chronic knee inflammation and swelling that doesn’t improve with rest or medications or those who experience a deformity such as bowing in or out of the knee.
In essence, knee replacement surgery offers hope for those who’ve lost mobility and endured constant pain. It’s a path towards a life where these limitations no longer hold sway, enabling patients to reclaim their independence and participate once again in activities they enjoy.
After the Surgery
Following knee replacement surgery, the journey toward regaining mobility and strength begins. The healing and recovery process is multi-dimensional and extends well beyond the hospital stay. Proper post-surgery care plays a pivotal role in this process, influencing the speed of recovery and the overall success of the surgery.
Once the surgery is completed, your body immediately starts its natural healing process. The incision begins to heal, and inflammation, a sign of your immune system at work, appears around the surgical area. Gradually, the pain subsides, and the new joint integrates with the body. This period of healing and rehabilitation is critical as it sets the foundation for your new knee’s long-term functionality.
During this time, several key areas require attention: managing pain, preventing infection, adhering to a prescribed physical therapy regimen, taking necessary medications, and maintaining a healthy diet. Each element is part of a more extensive, interconnected system – if one aspect is neglected, it could hamper progress in others.
And this is why avoiding post-surgery mistakes is so important. Missteps like overexertion, neglecting physical therapy, incorrect use of medications, ignoring signs of complications, or maintaining poor nutrition can lead to setbacks in the recovery process. They can cause complications such as infections, blood clots, implant failure, or prolonged pain and stiffness.
Evidence from Medical Studies
- Being sedentary and not following exercise prescriptions from a physical therapist: Active participation in physical therapy is critical after a knee replacement. If patients do not walk around frequently, change positions, and follow their prescribed exercises, they risk developing joint stiffness and other complications.
- Going back to work too soon: After a knee replacement, it is essential to focus on maximizing recovery. It is advised to consider light duty or modified hours if the job requires an immediate return to work. This allows the body to heal before jumping back into a strenuous job.
- Not using available pain management techniques: Pain is expected after knee replacement surgery. Not managing this pain can result in a limited range of motion due to high pain levels. Pain management techniques include ice, repositioning, elevation, integrative/alternative therapies, and prescribed pain medications.
- Not having a postoperative care and recovery plan: It is essential to have a safe plan for postoperative care and recovery. This includes knowing where one will be discharged from the hospital and who will act as the support person. Lack of a plan may result in extended hospital stays and challenges in the first days home.
- Doing too much too soon or engaging in high-risk activity: Patients need to give their body time to heal after surgery. Overexertion can lead to severe pain or swelling, signs that the body is being pushed too much. Following instructions from the surgeon and therapy team post-operatively is crucial.
How the findings can help prevent these mistakes
A study showed that individuals often experience pain and reduced balance control, possibly predisposing them to greater fall risk. Intervention efforts should target deficits in knee proprioception and sensory orientation and operated knee pain to prevent future falls in individuals after total knee arthroplasty.
Tips and Tricks to Avoid These Mistakes
- Keep Moving, But Don’t Overdo It: One of the most critical factors in your recovery will be maintaining a balance between rest and movement. Engage in regular, gentle exercises as prescribed by your physical therapist. Walking around your house, changing positions regularly, and performing your prescribed exercises can prevent joint stiffness and promote healing. However, avoid engaging in high-risk activities or overexerting yourself too soon after the surgery. Listen to your body and take things slow and steady.
- Prioritize Your Recovery: Your primary job after a knee replacement should be recovery. If your work demands an immediate return, consider modifying your hours or duties to allow your body ample time to heal.
- Manage Your Pain Effectively: Avoid the pain after knee replacement surgery. Use pain management techniques such as applying ice, repositioning, elevation, and prescribed pain medications. By managing your pain effectively, you can participate more fully in physical therapy and avoid the cycle of pain and immobility that can hinder your recovery.
- Plan Ahead: Arrange for your postoperative care and recovery before your surgery. Determine who will be your support person and where you will be after discharge, and ensure that your recovery area is ready for your arrival. Planning can make the transition from hospital to home smoother and less stressful.
- Take Precautions to Prevent Falls: Per studies, pain and reduced balance control can increase the risk of falls after knee replacement surgery. Make your environment safe by removing any tripping hazards, and consider using assistive devices when needed.
Expert Advice on Prevention
- Follow the Postoperative Rehabilitation Plan: Experts recommend adhering strictly to the postoperative rehabilitation plan prescribed by your healthcare team. This plan promotes healing, regains strength and mobility, and prevents complications.
- Stay Hydrated and Maintain a Balanced Diet: Proper nutrition and hydration can aid your body in healing. Speak with a nutritionist or healthcare provider to ensure your diet supports recovery.
- Regular Follow-ups with Your Healthcare Provider: Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help detect potential issues early, allowing for prompt treatment and adjustments to your recovery plan.
Practical and Easy-to-Follow Advice
- Set Realistic Goals: Setting realistic expectations for your recovery can help you avoid pushing yourself too hard too soon. Celebrate small victories along the way, like being able to walk a little further or having less pain.
- Utilize Support: Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Whether it’s transportation to appointments, help with meals, or assistance around the house, having a support person can make a significant difference in your recovery.
- Educate Yourself: Learn about your surgery, the recovery process, and potential complications. The more knowledgeable you are, the better you can participate in your care and prevent mistakes.
Remember, every person’s recovery journey is different. Always consult your healthcare provider or physical therapist for any concerns or questions during your recovery.