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Preparing for Knee Replacement Surgery

Considering knee replacement surgery? More than 540,000 knees are replaced each year in the U.S. -- and more than 90% of the people who get them have a dramatic reduction in pain.

However, don't leave everything up to the doctor. There's a lot that you need to do to prepare for knee replacement surgery -- and to increase the odds of success.

Recommended Related to Osteoarthritis

Joint Replacement: Risks vs. Benefits

After a skiing injury 30 years ago, Bert Pepper, MD, got osteoarthritis in his left knee. "I stopped skiing and gave up tennis, running, and other sports that are tough on the knee," he says. "I turned to speed-walking to stay fit, but the knee kept me from walking at a good pace." As his pain got worse and walking became harder, he looked into having a knee replacement. It's not a decision to make lightly, says Pepper, who is a psychiatrist. "It's a major life event. You have to be prepared to...

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  • Start planning early. Even before you have a date for the knee replacement surgery, start considering how it will affect your life. Things may be stressful after joint replacement for at least a few weeks. Planning now will make it smoother.
  • Ask questions. Don't be afraid to get the specifics from your surgeon. How long will the knee replacement surgery take? What type of anesthesia will you need? What kind of rehab will you get? Should you bank blood before the procedure? How long will you likely be out of work? Write down the answers. Better yet, have a trusted friend or family member come to your appointment to take notes.
  • Exercise. If possible, spend some time before surgery getting in shape. Being physically fit can dramatically speed up your recovery from knee replacement surgery. Ask your doctor which exercises you should do before surgery. Having upper body strength is key if you'll need to use crutches or a walker.
  • Improve your lifestyle. If you smoke, try to quit or cut down -- smoking can slow down recovery. If you're heavy, focus on slimming down before your surgery. Losing weight will reduce the stress on your new knee joint and help you heal.
  • Start practicing. Before surgery, find out what sorts of physical therapy exercises you'll need afterward. Try them out -- if you get used to them now, they'll be easier to do later. If you'll need crutches or a walker, try those out too.
  • Write down all your medical information. Write down all the medications and supplements you take, any health conditions you have, your insurance information, your doctors’ names, and whom to contact in an emergency. Lots of different medical personnel will be asking you about these things in the coming weeks. Having a note that you can show them may be helpful.
  • Line up help. You're going to need help during your recovery from knee replacement surgery. So set up a plan. If you live on your own, could a relative or close friend stay with you for a while? Could a neighbor help with taking out the garbage or bringing in the mail? You may want to stock up on pre-prepared foods -- or make extra food that you freeze for later.
  • Prepare your home. Adjust things in your house so it will be easy to get around when you're less mobile. You might need to set up a temporary bedroom on the first floor. Clear your hallways so you can navigate them with crutches or a walker. Consider installing safety rails in the bathroom. Make sure everything you need -- from your phone to your coffee maker -- is easy to reach
  • Get specific instructions. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions about what you need to do in the few days before surgery. Follow them closely. You may need to stop taking some medications, especially any that could lead to increased bleeding during surgery. Get all of the specifics and mark them down on a calendar so you don't forget.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on April 24, 2012

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