Orthopaedic / Total Knee Replacement

How Long Does Swelling Last After Total Knee Replacement?

How Long Does Swelling Last After Total Knee Replacement?
by admin
20th January 2023
6 minutes read

Swelling refers to the protuberance of an area of the body. In the case of knee surgery, the swelling occurs due to the accumulation of excess fluid in the tissues of the joint. During knee surgery, the damaged parts of your knee joint are replaced with an artificial prosthesis. As the knee joint takes time to heal, excess fluid accumulation in and around it may result in swelling. This is a normal part of the healing process that resolves with time. 

How Long Does The Swelling Last?

Having some pain, swelling, and bruising is a normal part of the recovery process following knee surgery. Swelling typically lasts for 2 to 3 weeks after surgery but may persist for as long as 3 to 6 months. Typically after the initial weeks of the procedure, you will notice a considerable change in the symptoms along with an improvement in pain and mobility. 

Why Does Swelling Occur After Total Knee Replacement Surgery?

Swelling is your body’s natural response to an injury and thus it is considered normal after any surgical procedure. After the surgery, the blood flow to the knees is increased. This is the response of the body to help in healing and recovery. As the body begins to heal, thousands of reapir cells pool around the affected body part. This is part of the first stage of healing called the ‘Inflammatory Phase’. This inflammatory response of your body manifest as increased blood flow resulting in swelling, warmth, and redness around the operated knee.

Also Read: How is a Total Knee Replacement Done

What Are The Tips To Reduce Swelling After Knee Replacement?

Swelling is a normal part of the healing process. Here are some ways that will help you manage post-operative swelling.

  • Elevate the leg with the foot above the level of your heart
    • This is one of the best methods to reduce swelling. 
    • Keep 2 to 3 pillows below your knee. 
    • Your leg should be at an angle of 45 degrees or greater from the body. 
    • Stay in that position as long as you can; however, get back to your normal position in case of throbbing pain.
  • Wear compression stockings 
    • Compression stockings improve blood circulation and reduce swelling.
    • Wear the stockings accordingly as instructed by your surgeon.
    • The stockings should be according to your knee size.
  • Use an ice pack
    • Take an ice pack and place it over the affected area.
    • For better results, repeat it 3 to 4 times a day, for 10 to 20 minutes each time.
    • Do not place the ice directly over the skin since it might lead to frostbite.
  • Take prescribed medications
    • Do not avoid your post-operative medications since it plays a vital role in reducing swelling.
    • Take your medications regularly as prescribed by your surgeon for quick healing and recovery.
  • Do not put pressure on the knee
    • Putting excess pressure on the operated knee can cause many problems.
    • Do not sit or stand in the same position for a prolonged time.
    • Change your position as and when required.
  • Keep the surgery site neat and clean
    • Not maintaining a clean surgery site might lead to infection. 
    • Change the dressing appropriately as suggested by the doctor.
    • Infection caused post-surgery leads to swelling.
  • Exercise regularly
    • Exercise is very important in the healing process, and during your hospital stay, your physical therapist (PT) will teach you effective exercises to follow.
    • You will be advised to do ankle pumps (an exercise involving repeatedly pushing the ankles up and down). The movement of the ankle due to the contraction of the calf muscles reduces swelling and prevents deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a fatal medical condition in which a blood clot forms in your veins. 
    • Exercising daily helps to strengthen the knee muscle and regain knee function, thereby reducing swelling and pain. This leads to a quicker recovery.
    • However, excessive exercise can also be harmful, so it is important to consult your surgeon and PT on the types of exercise you can do to reduce the swelling.
  • Maintaining your weight
    • Excess weight gain can put unwanted pressure on your artificial knee joint, leading to abnormal swelling in and around the operated knee.

When Should You Worry About Swelling Post Knee Replacement?

Swelling post-knee replacement surgery is a normal part of healing and may improve over time. However, in rare cases it may also be a sign of a serious pathological condition such as infection or deep vein thrombosis. 

Swelling with infection may present with the following:

  • Redness 
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Discharge from the affected area

Swelling can also be due to deep vein thrombosis (which occurs as a result of the formation of a blood clot inside the vein of the legs). The blood clot formed may cause swelling of the leg, especially in the calf region, which may extend above the knee. This blood clot may travel to other organs, such as the lung, and cause a pulmonary embolism. This leads to a decrease in oxygen to the lungs, shortness of breath, and eventually causes damage to the lungs. It is fatal if not treated. You will be advised to start leg movements after surgery and will be made to walk on the day of the surgery or the next day to prevent the development of deep vein thrombosis.

If you notice swelling and pain around your knee joint even after 6 months of your TKR surgery, make sure you consult your surgeon. This will help in the early detection of any complications and in managing them effectively. 

Also Read: What Muscles are Cut During Total Knee Replacement?


Recovery after a total knee replacement will differ from person to person. Symptoms such as pain, swelling, and bruising are expected after the surgery. Swelling in and around your knee joint will resolve gradually as you heal. However, it is important to bring it to your surgeon’s attention in case you notice that the swelling is increasing or is associated with other symptoms such as continuous pain, bleeding or pus-filled discharge from the operated site, increasing warmth around the incision site, etc.

Our team of expert orthopedic surgeons at Medfin is dedicated to delivering the best treatment possible in catering to your needs!

Disclaimer: The content on this site is the copyright of Medfin and is intended for informational and educational purposes only. This should not be considered as a substitute for medical and surgical expertise. Results from any treatments or surgeries are subjective to an individual patient and the type of procedure/surgery performed. Please seek professional help regarding any medical concerns. Medfin will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.

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