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Is walking possible a few days after total knee replacement?

Osteoarthritis of knee is one of the most common diseases in the elderly causing pain & swelling, stiffness and crepitus of knee.

Whenever the subject “knee replacement” is broached, the first thing that comes to mind would be that it is an intimidating major surgery. Will patients be able to walk again after surgery? And if so, how long would it take? This article has the answers.

Osteoarthritis of knee is one of the most common diseases in the elderly causing pain & swelling, stiffness and crepitus of knee. The disease can hamper activities of daily living. In patients with moderate-to-severe knee osteoarthritis if symptoms fail to respond to medications or physical therapies, the next treatment option is knee replacement which has become well-received nowadays. In the United States alone, more than 1 million knee replacements have been performed annually and likely to further increase as we fully transition into the aging society.

Knee replacement is a surgery with more than 50 years of long storied history during which incessant advances have been made in every aspects of the treatment resulting in current treatment outcome that is much more satisfactory than before. It is one of the most successful and well-recognized surgical procedure that it can relieve pain and improve patient quality of life.

Knee implants are made of alloy of titanium, cobalt chromium with an inlay of polyethylene layer on the articular end of the lower tibial bone functioning as an artificial cartilage between these two metallic pieces. The present-day manufacturing and design of knee implants is so advanced that they are made very strong, durable, abrasion resistant and able to function nearly on a par with patient’s own healthy knee. So much so that after the knee replacement, patients are allowed full weight bearing when practice walking on the day of surgery.

Further innovation and refinement of surgical techniques minimizes soft tissue injuries and provides faster postoperative recovery. Computer-assisted and robot-assisted surgical technologies have also been employed to increase the positional accuracy of knee arthroplasty components.

In additional to surgery, preoperative assessment and postoperative care are equally crucial. The collaboration among surgeons, internists, and anesthesiologists is essential to ensure patients are well-prepared for surgery and to eliminate postoperative pain so that patient can undergo a pain-free rehabilitation. According to studies, commencing walking within 24 hours after knee replacement enables earlier hospital discharge, better functioning of knee implant and lower risks of complications.

In conclusion, current total knee replacement surgery is not as intimidating as you might think. With proper cares before, during, and after surgery by a team of specialist physicians and surgeons, the safe treatment outcome with faster postoperative recovery are routinely expected and walking can be resumed on the day of surgery.

Article by
Dr Waiwit Sanguanwongwan
Orthopedic Surgeon, Adult Reconstructive Orthopedics Specialist
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