What to expect after joint surgery
Here is some information about what to expect after surgery and things to look out for.
Pain is often the biggest issue. It is something you should expect after your operation, but it is key that you do not stop doing your exercises. Please make sure you follow the pain management programme you were discharged with to help control your pain.
It is common to have some generalised swelling of the leg around the knee replacement. Swelling often gets worse if you sit for prolonged periods so we encourage you to remain gently active. Elevating your leg, ensuring you keep the leg straight will help reduce swelling but for no longer than 45 mins at a time.
Using ice packs can help reduce swelling and ease the pain. Use a bag of peas or rice, wrapped into a damp cloth to allow cold through but protect your skin from ice burn. Place on the knee and leave for 20 mins. Allow 1-2 hours between ice applications to allow your skin to return to normal.
If you experience increased swelling and pain, please seek medical advice.
It is common for people to experience some disturbance in their normal sleep pattern in the first few weeks after an operation. Please do not worry this usually improves with time. Do not sleep or rest with a pillow underneath your knee.
Constipation is usually due to the pain relief medication you are taking. We will give you some laxative medication as part of the routine pain relief package. Please ensure you take these as prescribed, along with plenty of water to drink. Keeping mobile will help reduce symptoms. If you struggle, then please discuss with your GP.
Washing and dressing
The dressing over your wound will be showerproof, so you will be able to get it wet. If your knee feels comfortable, you can use an over bath shower. Many people prefer to strip wash for the first few days. Consider putting a chair or stool in the bathroom so you have somewhere to rest.
You will be able to dress your upper half normally but may need small aids such as a “helping hand” to assist you dressing your lower half, or you may need someone to help you. You can purchase a long-handled shoehorn to help you put on your pants and shoes, which we strongly recommend.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
Blood clots in the leg can occur after joint replacement surgery. If your leg becomes hard, swollen, hot and painful, especially in the calf area, then this could be a sign of a blood clot. Please seek medical advice if you get these symptoms.
Infection is rare. However, if your joint replacement scar becomes hot, red and / or increasingly swollen or you feel unwell, then please seek medical assistance.
Support after discharge
Even though you may be discharged after you operation, you are not alone. There is always someone available who you can contact for advice. You will be given information about whom to contact should you require any help.
You will receive a routine follow-up telephone call to check on you the day after your discharge.
If you would like more information before your operation or have any questions in the first 7 days after you have been discharged home, one of the nursing staff will be able to advice you directly or contact your surgical team.
You can contact your surgical consultant's secretary who will be able to assist you in contacting a member of the team.