Preparing for Knee Replacement
Knee replacement is a life-changing step to end the chronic pain and restore your quality of life. However, this is a major surgical procedure with an intense recovery period. It is wise to be as prepared as possible. The following guidelines can help you best prepare in the weeks leading up to surgery.
Preparing Yourself for Surgery
You want to face surgery with the strongest and healthiest body possible. Your surgeon will likely recommend attention to the following items in the weeks before surgery:
- Nutrition – Eat well balanced, nutritious meals. Just before surgery is not the time to diet, however, or to add any new over-the-counter herbs, supplements or medications. Eat healthy foods and drink adequate water in the time leading up to surgery. Protein will help your bones and muscles recover from surgery.
- Medications – Make a careful list of all medications you take, including prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter items you might purchase at the supermarket or drug store. Include vitamins, herbs and other supplements. You will need to show this list to your physician and other caretakers before surgery. Your doctor may recommend tapering off and stopping certain medications before your surgery date, as they can impact bleeding during the operation or interact with anesthesia or other medications you will be given during and after the surgery.
- Stop smoking - Smoking impacts your blood vessels and lungs, and can slow your recovery from surgery.
- Exercise – Ask your doctor about any exercises you should do before surgery. Exercises to strengthen your upper body will help you get around with crutches or a walker after surgery. Certain exercises can help maintain the strength of your leg muscles. You will have exercises to do right after surgery to help you recover. (See these videos on knee exercises after surgery). You can practice them now to help prepare for your post-surgery rehabilitation.
- Rest – Get adequate sleep in the period before your surgery. You will want to be as rested as possible to face the impact of a major surgery.
- Attitude – Undergoing joint replacement surgery is a very big undertaking. For awhile after surgery, you will be more disabled than you were before and will need help from others just to perform basic tasks. You will also have to deal with post surgical pain. It’s a good idea to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for these realities, gathering your inner strength and focusing on the ultimate outcome of better mobility. You might consider acquainting yourself with meditation techniques or use CDs or downloaded guided meditations that can ease your anxiety about surgery and focus your mind on the positive.
- Blood Donations – Major surgery almost always involves some blood loss. Talk to your doctor about the option of donating your own blood ahead of surgery to be used if you need a transfusion. These donations must be completed well in advance of your surgery date. With surgical advancement, transfusions are not given as often as just five years ago.
- Get a Disabled Parking Permit - You can get a temporary (6 month) disabled parking placard from the DMVOpens new window to use while you recover from surgery. Be sure to get the forms, have your doctor sign them, and get the placard from DMV before your surgery.
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Prepare Your Home for Surgery
- When you return home from surgery, you will be dealing with post-surgical pain and will be less mobile than before while your joint heals. Your doctor and hospital staff will give you guidelines for preparing your home. These preparations may include the following:
- Assess the number of stairs, doorsills and other impediments to navigate your home. Physical therapists in the hospital will train you in handling stairs.
- If you live in a two-story home, create a sleeping space downstairs for the first weeks following surgery.
- Measure the width of your doors and hallways. You should have 30 inches of clearance in all areas you must navigate during the first few weeks. Remember that you will be using a walker and need to be able to turn around with the walker.
- Remove all throw rugs, cords and other obstructions to allow a wide path through the rooms of your home. You must avoid falling or slipping while your joint is healing.
- Place objects you will need frequently – clothing, cooking utensils, etc – in new locations so you can reach them without bending down or reaching up.
- Look into assistive devices. You will need certain assistive devices to help you use the toilet, bathe, dress yourself, pick up items, and get in and out of chairs and your bed. Your hospital should have lists of what is needed and advice on local sources of these devices. They can be purchased new, or you can explore options for finding second hand devices on loan, or purchased inexpensively. Equipment most often used includes walker, shower chair, raised toilet seat and reacher.
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Preparing Caregivers and Your Loved Ones
When you first leave the hospital, you will need the help of others to perform basic activities like bathing, dressing and managing household chores of cooking and cleaning. Arrange for a family member or friend to be available to stay with you when you return home for the first week or two.
If you live alone or have no one who can fill this role, consider going to a specialized rehabilitation facility after discharge from the hospital. Your hospital should have a list of these facilities. You may want to arrange a visit ahead of time. Admission to a facility may be dependent on your insurance policy. Please review your insurance policy coverage beforehand.
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