Published: June 22, 2011
Updated: June 22, 2011
A soft dressing and ice cuff have been put on your knee. This dressing will absorb any leakage of fluid or blood and should be left intact for 48 hours. Some initial drainage is normal, but if the bandage becomes wet or soiled you may remove it and replace it with another sterile dressing.
After 48 hours, remove the gauze bandage but leave the Steri-strips on the incisions intact -- they will become loose and fall off by themselves in a few days. Place adhesive strips (Band-Aids) over each incision and change them daily.
Keep your knee dry for 48 hours after surgery. After that you may shower, but do not soak the knee underwater (e.g., in a bathtub or pool) for at least a week. The yellow iodine solution applied to your knee during surgery can be removed with rubbing alcohol.
Treat the incisions like any cut on your skin -- keep them clean and dry and covered with an adhesive bandage until they are healed. There may be bruising around the knee. This eventually disappears and does not need special care. Some patients develop firm bumps under the incision sites. These will gradually disappear after several weeks and seldom cause any long-term problems.
Immediately following surgery, your knee will be numb due to the anaesthetic block. After about six hours this will wear off and your knee will be painful and swollen.
The amount of pain and swelling is highly variable depending on the procedure performed, but should subside considerably within the first few days. Narcotic pain medicine should be taken as prescribed.
As the pain improves, you may switch from the narcotic to an over-the-counter pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
You should elevate your leg and use the ice cuff continuously for the first 24 hours. After that, you should continue to use it intermittently during the following days or even weeks as needed if there is persistent swelling.
You will be sent home on crutches and should use them until the anaesthesia block has worn off. Once you have regained full sensation and use of your leg, you can put all or part of your weight on the leg unless otherwise instructed by your surgeon.
You may gradually increase the amount of weight as comfort allows. You may discontinue the crutches when you can walk comfortably without limping.
Begin gentle range of motion exercises to bend and straighten your knee. This will get easier as pain and swelling improve.
You should also try to tighten the muscles in the front of the thigh (quadriceps) do some straight leg lifts. When you are walking, try to touch down with the heel first. When standing, raise up on your toes several times to strengthen your calf muscles.
When you return for your first postoperative visit, you will be instructed in additional exercises, and may be referred to physical therapy depending on your progress.
You should wait at least 48 hours before driving. You should not drive while still taking narcotic pain medications or if you do not have sufficient strength or motion in your knee to safely operate your vehicle.
You should plan to take the day off from work or school at least the day after surgery and more depending on your job. Most people can return to sedentary, desk-type work within a few days.
If your job involves a lot of walking and standing it may take two to three weeks to be comfortable with that. It may take a month or more to return to strenuous physical labor involving lifting, kneeling, squatting, and climbing.
You should call your orthopaedic surgeon if you have any of the following symptoms: