Knee surgery recovery time varies depending upon the type of knee surgery and the individual’s health. Recovery in terms of walking or resuming normal life can begin within 3 to 8 weeks of surgery, while resuming strenuous activities may take quite a few months.
In cases of severe knee problems where treatment through medication is not possible, knee surgery is the ultimate option to improve the function of knee joint. Besides, many sportsmen also undergo a knee surgery if the knee problem jeopardizes their performance. Depending upon the problem, there are several types of corrective orthopedic surgeries. The recovery time primarily depends upon the particular type of surgery you opt for.
Daniel Fulham O’Neill, M.D., Ed.D, stated in his book, Knee Surgery: The Essential Guide to Total Knee Recovery that, “different knees heal at different rates“. People have different problems and different responses to surgeries, which is why the ideal recovery time after a knee surgery cannot be determined.
People heal at a different pace, depending on their health, age, additional medical problems, will power, etc. Moreover, complications arising after the surgery, accidental falls, infections, etc. will delay the healing process even further. Nevertheless, a generalized approximate time frame can be considered, which will give us a fair idea about the time taken for knee surgery recoveries.
Arthroscopy is a type of knee surgery that is performed on an outpatient basis. It is mainly performed to diagnose knee problems and treat torn cartilage, or remove broken bone fragments. It is also performed to repair the ligaments. The surgery involves making an incision in the knee through which the surgeon inserts an arthroscope. Repair or removal of damaged tissues, etc. is then carried out.
The patient is discharged a few hours after surgery, and is advised to take rest for the next two days. The physiotherapist will suggest a few knee-strengthening exercises that can be carried out at home. The patient will need to place the leg in an elevated position and apply ice, to reduce swelling. Most people begin to walk with the help of crutches. By day four, the swelling should have subsided.
The average recovery time for this type of surgery is 2 to 3 weeks, however, if everything goes on fine and recovery is fast, one can get back to work by the end of the week. This is provided work doesn’t involve strain on the knees, and is not physically demanding. The long-term recovery time after an arthroscopy would be around 1-2 months. However, it’s important to remember that, recovery after an arthroscopy, depends on the kind of treatment carried out in the knee.
Partial knee replacement surgery, as the name suggests involves replacement of only part of the knee, with an implant. The time taken to recover from a partial knee replacement surgery is lesser than that taken in a total knee replacement surgery. This is because partial knee surgery is minimally invasive, involving less pain and better recovery. Nevertheless, it does require adequate rehabilitation time.
Post-surgery the patient is made to sit on a wheelchair, and move around a bit. The next day physiotherapist will suggest a few exercises, and the patient will also be made to walk with the help of crutches. By day 3, most patients are discharged. The patient can walk with the help of a cane and carry out routine activities, involving minimum strain on the knees. No lifting heavy objects or doing stressful activities. After two weeks, one can start walking without the support of the cane. Moreover, if the surgeon gives the green signal, one can start driving as well. One can resume work, provided the job is not physically strenuous. However, it will take 3 months before people involved in more physically demanding jobs can get back to work.
A total knee replacement surgery involves replacement of the end of the femur bone, by a metal shell. Knee replacement surgery requires extensive post surgery care and a lot of dependency on other people. The patient may have to rely on his family members to help him perform his daily tasks. During this time, the patient is required to undergo physiotherapy exercises, to improve the knee function. He also needs to make frequent appointments with the surgeon to keep a watch on the improvement of the condition of the knee joint.
The short-term recovery time after a knee replacement surgery spans somewhere between 6 to 12 weeks. During the first two days after the surgery, the patient is made to stand with support and is made to do a few exercises. The patient is also made to walk with the help of a walker. After day 5, the patient is mostly discharged. The non-dissolvable stitches/staples are removed after about 10 days. The patient is allowed to resume daily routine activities, by the third week after surgery.
By 5-6 weeks, the patient may begin to walk without support. Pain and swelling would have reduced by now. He or she may also resume work, provided it’s a desk job. By 7-8 weeks, the doctor may also give the green signal to drive, if the knees have gained stability.
For those whose work involves strain on the knees, a minimum three months must be given to the knees to recover, before one gets back to work. About 4-6 months are required for proper recovery. Physiotherapy will continue for about a year, after which the surgeon may give the green signal to perform strenuous knee exercises. However, vigorous sports activities like football, skiing, etc., must be avoided after this surgery.
Cutting or reshaping part of the damaged bone in the knee joint, to improve stability and relieve pressure and pain, is called knee osteotomy. The pressure is shifted to the healthier part of the knee, thereby providing relief to those suffering from initial stages of osteoporosis.
Post-surgery, the knee is placed in a brace/cast, which helps keep the knees straight, and promotes healing. The physiotherapist will suggest exercises that can be done on the hospital bed itself. The patient gets discharged within 2 to 4 days after surgery, provided there are no complications. The bandage can be removed on the sixth day. The cast/brace continues to remain for another 4-5 weeks, until the osteotomy heals completely. Physiotherapy will have to be carried out throughout this period.
By the 8th week after surgery, one can wean off the crutches, and start walking without support. Once the patient can walk without support, and is mentally and emotionally ready, he or she can resume work, provided it’s a desk job, or one which is not physically demanding.
Since an osteotomy causes a fracture in the tibia, a minimum of 3 months is required for healing. Those involved in physically demanding jobs, wherein strain is applied on the knees, work can only be resumed about 2 to 3 months after surgery. After 3 months one can resume an active lifestyle, however, extreme caution has to be maintained while doing anything, because a fall can disrupt the whole healing process, and cause more damage. A year is required for complete recovery after an osteotomy.
These days, newer surgical techniques are being implemented, to reduce the recovery time as well as the pain associated with the surgery. Inquire with your local orthopedic surgeon regarding advanced surgical techniques and whether you are a candidate for any of them. However, it’s important to remember, the recovery time is different for different people!
Disclaimer: This article is intended for information purpose only. Do not use the information presented herein as a substitute for medical practitioner’s advice.