Rehabilitation After Knee Arthroplasty

Physical therapy begins very soon after the knee arthroplasty (replacement) is complete and usually lasts for about 6 weeks. Patients are given analgesics to relieve postoperative pain sufficiently so that they can begin to exercise the affected joint as soon as possible. At first they are encouraged to sit up and perform knee slides. Within days, or even hours, they are instructed to perform other exercises in order to regain muscle strength and flexibility. In addition, many patients are taught to use a continuous passive motion device to assist in postsurgical recovery.

Physical rehabilitation after knee arthroplasty has a number of goals. First and foremost, rehabilitation is necessary to prevent postsurgical complications like deep vein thrombosis, pressure ulcers (bedsores) and pulmonary embolisms. Exercises are also necessary for the patient to regain adequate strength and function, including as full a range of motion as possible.

Physical therapy enables the patient to walk. Because it is important not to allow the knee to bear too much weight as it heals, most patients require the use of assistive devices like crutches or walkers for a week or two following a knee arthroplasty. Occupational rehabilitation is also important because it helps the patient adapt to engaging in everyday activities using the prosthesis. Occupational therapy addresses such tasks as personal washing, dressing, and food preparation.

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