Knee replacement surgery is a treatment for a joint that has been damaged by Osteoarthritis, which is a breakdown of cartilage and the underlying bone. Once other options for treating this damage have been ruled out, a knee specialist may recommend surgery.
The procedure entails removing the damaged bone and cartilage, replacing it with a synthetic joint, which could be made out of plastic, metal or any other synthetic material.
Research suggests that 90% of patients who get knee replacement surgery significantly experience less pain after and regain complete mobility.
Like any other surgery, Knee replacement surgery also carries risks and requires the patient to take substantial precautions. The risks can range from blood clots to infection and pain even after surgery.
Side effects of knee replacement surgery
The risks of having a knee replacement surgery may take place immediately after the surgery or once the body starts reacting to the operation.
Knee Pain Symptom Checker: Any opening in the human skin carries the risk of bacteria entering the incision or open skin surface. During surgery, doctors try to take care of that, but once the patient is home, there could be chances of infection if proper precautions aren’t taken.
Certain signs of an infected wound are:
- Fever or chills
If an infection is, however, identified, antibiotics will be prescribed to take care of it.
Blood clots are the most common risk after knee replacement research. If a blood vessel is damaged during surgery followed by a lack of movement by the patient, blood flow may slow down, causing clots.
A life-threatening form of a blood clot is called pulmonary embolism. This happens when a blood clot is in one of the deep veins, such as deep vein thrombosis. If this clot breaks free, it can travel to the lungs and can be fatal.
To make sure blood clots are minimized or avoided after surgery, a doctor might recommend substantial movement, so the blood circulates to the affected area enough not to cause a clot. Wearing a compression might also help in reducing clots.
Loss of blood during and after surgery is a complication that can be avoided with a transfusion if the patient has lost too much blood. In some cases, blood might accumulate under the skin and cause swelling.
There are procedures to release that blood and allow for effective circulation. Bleeding usually stops early after the surgery. If it doesn’t, it has to be taken care of immediately as too much blood loss and a lack of transfusion at the right time can be fatal.
The most unfavourable situation after a knee replacement surgery is for the synthetic implant to fail to function as intended. This happens if the new joint placed wears off or loses stability, it could also happen if the body rejects the foreign joint.
There might be stiffness and pain even after surgery if there is an Implant failure. Another procedure to treat this issue might be immediately necessary.
Surgery involves incisions and replacements, which might take a while for the body to get used to. Recovery can be extremely painful initially. Doctors might also prescribe pain killers. However, they can only be taken for the duration of the prescription, as the body may become resistant to the efficacy of the pain killers
Swelling may take place around the ankle, knee or the foot after the surgery. Cold compression on the swollen area might help reduce it and the discomfort as well. Exercising the leg may also reduce the swelling.
It is also common that some patients go through breathing difficulties after the surgery. This might be a side effect of general anaesthesia. It could lead to a mucus build-up due to lack of air, and this could lead to pneumonia.
Taking deep breaths to fill the lungs with sufficient air is necessary for the patients. Meditation and breathing exercises can most certainly help to ease down the pain or difficulty in breathing.
In certain unfortunate cases, a nerve may get cut, which may run close to the area being operated on during surgery. The loss of movement or feeling due to a cut nerve can be permanent.
The synthetic implant may not suit everyone, and some patients may have an allergic reaction to the metal or plastic implant. The allergy leads to a rash, swelling or blisters. Anti-allergies are mostly prescribed to cope with a mild allergy.
It is also advised to check for the materials one is allergic to before surgery.
Precautions to take after the surgery
Taking care of the pain first and foremost is extremely important to alleviate the discomfort of post-surgery. Effective pain killers and, in certain cases, IV painkillers may be prescribed to manage the pain after going home.
It helps if exercising the operated knee slowly may help in reducing pain gradually. A physical therapist may sketch out a treatment plan that suits the patient.
Using support to move
It is advisable to use a cane or walker right after surgery to avoid any pressure on the operated knee. It may also help in public spaces and give awareness to bystanders to be cautious and make space for the patient. The use can be decreased as the knee starts recovering.
Treating the swelling
Icing or alternating between a hot or cold compress, alleviating the leg for a short period of time, anti-inflammatory drugs may help reduce the swelling.
A professional therapist may provide with the right exercises at every stage of recovery, making sure the right movements are made to support the new implant. Learned exercises can be practiced without a therapist as well as the recovery progresses.
Following up with the surgeon
Following and checking in with the surgeon at different stages of the recovery is extremely necessary as it will guide the intensity of care needed. Change of pain killers or anti-inflammatory meds can be done as well if required.
Prevention of blood clots
Blood clot may be a concern early on after the surgery, the doctor might prescribe anti anticoagulants to reduce the risk of blood clots. Staying vigilant for any signs of a clot maybe necessary aswell.
Long term care
Going through a surgery is a painful experience and there are long term precautions a patient must take to protect and make the surgery success. Making sure the knee doesn’t receive too much pressure or strain for a long period of time maybe necessary.
Exercising the knee thoroughly for it to adjust and heal is also a long-term measure to ensure the recovery of the injured knee.
It is advised that taking care of one’s mental health while these changes are made is also important in order to follow through with a treatment plan. In certain cases, the recovery may be slower, especially amongst older patients.