Your hospital stay
You’ll probably stay in hospital for several days after surgery. Your length of stay depends on how well you progress and whether there are any complications. The average length of stay is three to five days.
To begin with, you may have an IV line for pain management drugs and antibiotics plus a drain to remove fluids from the wound site and a urinary catheter.
You may be fitted with special compression stockings to wear on both legs. You may also be given ‘calf pumps’ which inflate intermittently. The stockings and calf pumps are designed to help reduce the risk of blood clots. You may also be given blood-thinning drugs to further reduce the risk.
You may be surprised that the nurses will encourage you to stand up within 24 hours of your surgery. This may be painful, but it’s important for your recovery to get the knee and the surrounding structures working as soon as possible. A physiotherapist will also visit to show you knee exercises you can do in bed and during your stay.
The exercises shouldn’t be difficult, as long as your pain medication is working well. If you feel undue discomfort, the pain medication can be adjusted. It’s important for your recovery that any pain is managed, so you can move and breathe properly, so don’t suffer in silence.
You may also be sent for an x-ray to check the alignment of the prosthesis. After the drain and urinary catheter are removed, you’ll be encouraged to walk around the ward.
The wound site will usually be covered and sealed with a waterproof dressing. If you notice any break in the seal that could allow water in, report it to a nurse immediately.
Once the surgeon is confident you’re progressing well, you’ll be discharged from hospital. You may go straight home, or to a rehabilitation unit if you need inpatient care.
Recovery time varies from patient to patient, but it's generally between three and six months.
During this time you’ll need regular physiotherapy and an exercise program. This will help to get your new knee working properly.