How to Prepare for Knee Replacement Surgery

Is knee replacement surgery on your calendar? Do yourself a big favor and start to prepare now. It can make your recovery go a whole lot easier and faster.

Plan early. Even before you set a date, think about how an operation will affect your life. Things may be stressful after joint replacement for at least a few weeks. Preparing now will make it smoother.

Ask questions. Don't be afraid to get the specifics from your doctor. How long will the 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, try to get in better shape before your surgery. If you're physically fit, you'll have a faster recovery time. Ask your doctor which exercises you should do before the operation. If you improve your upper body strength, it will make it easier for you to use crutches or a walker.

Tweak your lifestyle. If you smoke, try to quit or cut down. Smoking can slow down recovery and wound healing. If you're heavy, make an effort to drop a few pounds before your surgery. Losing weight will reduce the stress on your new knee and help you heal. Smoking and obesity both raise the risk of complications with joint replacement surgery.

Start practicing. Before surgery, learn 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, give them a test drive, too.

Write down all your medical info. Make a list of the medicines 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 people will be asking you about these things in the coming weeks. It's helpful to have a note that you can show them.

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Line up help. You're going to need it while you recover. So make a plan now. If you live on your own, could a relative or close friend stay with you for a while? How about a neighbor to take out the garbage or bring in the mail? You may want to stock up on packaged foods -- or make extra meals that you freeze for later.

Get your home ready. 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.

Follow instructions. Your doctor will give you details about what you need to do in the few days before surgery. You may need to stop taking some medications, especially ones 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 David Zelman, MD on January 26, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Preparing for Joint Replacement Surgery," "Activities After a Knee Replacement," "Total Knee Replacement," "Is Hip Replacement Surgery for You?"

Matthew Austin, MD, spokesman, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; orthopedic surgeon, Rothman Institute, Philadelphia.

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Joint Replacement Surgery."

Tariq Nayfeh, MD, PhD, assistant professor, orthopaedic surgery, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore.

University of California, San Francisco Medical Center: "Preparing for Knee Replacement Surgery."

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