Total Knee Replacement (TKR) surgery is now the most commonly performed elective surgery in the United States. Wear and tear on joints is the most common reason for joint replacement. This happens when years of activities cause the cartilage lining to deteriorate, causing bone to rub on bone, a source of great pain.
You could lessen the damage done over the years by ensuring that you wear good footwear with soles that will absorb some of the impact, limit excess weight and keep leg muscles in good shape.
If you decide to have knee replacement surgery, you should know that every surgery, no matter how major or minor, can pose the risk for complications.
Common Knee Replacement Surgery Complications
Although serious complications are rare, it’s important to be informed about the issues that could potentially arise following knee surgery. Knee replacement surgery complications are usually fairly minor and can be treated successfully when dealt with immediately.
The risk for complications can increase depending on your age and overall health, as well as how well you’re following your rehabilitation program. A few common complications following knee surgery include:
Infections. While the number of people who experience infections following knee replacement surgery is quite low (only 1.8%), there is still a slight risk of infection. In fact, the surgical team takes several preventative measures to reduce the risk for any infection while knee joint is exposed. Hospitals also utilize special air filters in operating rooms to reduce the amount of dust particles in the air.
Blood clots. Changes in the way blood flows and its ability to clot following surgery can sometimes result in blood clots forming in the deep veins in the leg. This is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and it usually occurs within two weeks of the surgery. Preventative measures to reduce the risk for DVT include taking blood thinning medications following surgery, as well as employing techniques such as exercising, elevating the leg or wearing support stockings.
Stiffness or loss of motion. Some people may experience increased or continuing stiffness following knee surgery, usually as a result of the formation of scar tissue or swelling. Physical therapy usually alleviates stiffness and improves range of motion, although severe cases may require a follow up procedure to further break up scar tissue and adjust the prosthesis.
Nerve or artery damage. While the nerves and tissues are healing, some people may experience numbness for a period of time. This usually disappears throughout the recovery process. There’s also a slight risk that arteries can get damaged during surgery, due to the fact that they are located directly behind the knee.
Allergy to metal components. Prior to surgery, it is important to determine whether you or someone you love is allergic to metal such as titanium or cobalt-chromium based alloy used in the knee implant to avoid an allergic reaction. If you’re unsure of any allergies, discuss the topic with your surgeon; or, if you are aware of your allergy, it’s important to inform the surgeon before your procedure.
Dedicate Your Time to Therapy after Surgery
Emphasis on therapy after surgery is just as important as the operation itself. Though you are anxious to return to home, the newly replaced joint needs professional attention to ensure adhesions, or tissue do not form and attach to the wrong place. If tissue does form in the wrong place, it will ultimately limit your range of motion or flexibility and will be painful to work through and release. You will also benefit from the encouragement of professionals that will help you move in a safe manner, limit your pain and ensure the best outcome without limitations in your abilities to move freely and enjoy life.
Throughout your knee replacement recovery time, it’s important to not overdo it and stay on top of your recommended rehabilitation program. Avoid putting unnecessary stress on your knee, and monitor your form when you’re lifting, bending, kneeling and sitting. How quickly you recover will depend on factors such as your age, physical condition and your overall strength. Most people can start moving soon after surgery, and within three to four months are generally pain-free and enjoying all the activities they previously enjoyed.
For post operation rehabilitation, consider Moving Forward Rehabilitation at an American Senior Communities location near you. Contact the ASC Referral Line at 888-996-8272 or referralline@ASCSeniorCare.com for additional information.