What to Expect After a Total Knee Replacement?

9 mins read
total knee replacement recovery

If you are considering a total knee replacement surgery, it is essential to understand what you should expect following the surgery. People unaware of the post-surgical healing process often express dissatisfaction with the outcomes of the surgery.  You must keep realistic expectations from the surgery and understand the recovery process thoroughly. You can expect a significant improvement in pain, and mobility, after a total knee replacement, but it may take several months to recover fully.

What is a Total Knee Replacement?

It is a surgical procedure that replaces your knee joint’s damaged or worn-out parts with artificial implants or prostheses. A total knee replacement is typically recommended for patients with severe knee arthritis or knee injury that has not responded to other treatments. The following are some indications for a total knee replacement:

  • Osteoarthritis: A common degenerative condition that causes the cartilage in the knee joint to wear away, leading to pain and stiffness.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the knee joint and can damage the cartilage and bone.
  • Trauma or injury: Knee injuries such as ligament tears or fractures can damage the knee joint and may require a total knee replacement.
  • Chronic knee pain: Persistent knee pain that limits daily activities and affects the quality of life can indicate total knee replacement.
  • Deformity: Patients with knee joint deformities such as bowlegs or knock-knees can be indicated for total knee replacement.

It is important to note that a total knee replacement is a major surgery and is not recommended for all patients. It’s important to have a detailed discussion with a surgeon, who will evaluate the patient’s medical history and perform a physical examination to determine if a total knee replacement is the best option.

How is a Total Knee Replacement Surgery Done?

The surgeon will make an incision in the knee during the procedure and remove the damaged cartilage and bone. The prostheses or implants are then precisely positioned and secured in place. They typically consist of a metal femoral component that replaces the end of the thigh bone, a plastic tibial component that replaces the top of the shin bone, and a plastic or metal button that replaces the kneecap.

The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and typically takes about 2 to 3 hours. After the surgery, patients will go through a physical therapy and rehabilitation program to help regain strength and range of motion in the knee.

What to Expect Following The Surgery?

After a total knee replacement, you may experience pain and discomfort as your knee heals. Pain can be managed with medication and physical therapy can help to regain strength and flexibility in the joint. You may be required to stay in the hospital for 1 to 5 days after the surgery to recover and receive physical therapy. After discharge, you will continue the physical therapy and rehabilitation at home or in an outpatient facility. The recovery process takes several months and can include exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the knee.

You can expect to experience significant improvements in pain, mobility, and quality of life after a total knee replacement. Still, it can take several months for the knee to recover fully. Regular follow-up appointments with the surgeon will be necessary to evaluate the healing progress and the implant prosthesis’s wear and tear.

According to the studies conducted, after TKR surgery, the success rate of implants after 15 years of surgery is around 90% and 82% after 20 years. We have outlined the typical recovery timeline for you to understand and expect how healing takes place at different points in time. This will give you an idea of what you can expect at each stage after a TKR surgery.

First 24 hours after the surgery

  • Within 24 hours, you will have your first physical therapy session and learn specific exercises focussing on improving blood flow to the surgical site. 
  • The therapist will assist you with standing and walking with assistive equipment such as walkers, crutches, and canes.
  • You will also be taught how to operate a continuous passive motion machine (CPM), which moves the joint gently. The CPM machine helps you slowly straighten and bend the knee, enhancing your range of motion more quickly.
  • You will have pain and swelling initially, which will subside with time. 
  • You may also experience nausea and constipation, which are common side effects of anesthesia. 

One month after the surgery

  • Depending on your progress, you can leave the hospital within 1 to 5 days.
  • You may feel tired and may need the help of someone at home for a week or two.
  • As you work on your daily program of strengthening, and flexibility exercises with your physical therapist, you should be able to bend your knee at a 90-degree angle, straighten it, and walk for at least 10 minutes without stopping.
  • You may expect to utilize supportive devices such as walkers, crutches, or canes initially and will be able to reduce their use by the third week.
  • Your knee strength will start to increase after about a month. 

Two months after the surgery

  • Pain and swelling decrease significantly as you continue your physical therapy sessions. 
  • You may rely less on supportive devices such as walkers or canes.
  • During this period, your physical therapist may add low-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, or walking for long periods.
  • By this stage, you should be able to climb the stairs and resume some low-impact housework.
  • You may also be able to travel by the 4th to 6th week, bend your knee to a 120-degree angle, and resume driving by the sixth/eighth week.

Three months after the surgery

  • By the 12th week, you should have little to no pain when performing your normal activities.
  • Your physical therapist may add new, moderate-impact exercises to your routine.
  • You should be well on the path to recovery by this point and also be able to return to work. 
  • Most activities can be resumed after three months, as complete recovery takes six to twelve months.


Overall, with proper care and rehabilitation, patients who have undergone TKR can expect to return to many normal activities, including walking, climbing stairs, and even low-impact sports such as swimming and cycling. Following your doctor’s instructions will help in a smooth recovery. Make sure you take expert advice regarding your health. At Medfin, our team continuously strives to provide the most advanced and latest surgical techniques to meet the demands of patients. Contact us for any assistance on knee surgeries.

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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