Postoperative Pain & Recovery Timeframes

Post-surgical wound care

The preferred wound closure system is the Dermabond Prineo skin closure tape. With this system you will have sutures underneath the skin which will absorb with time. On top of these sutures, a clear piece of tape is placed. This tape creates a barrier between the incision and outside bacteria. Use of this tape allows you to begin showering normally within 24 hours of your procedure. You are not able to soak the area in a body of water. Additionally, you have no wound care with this system. You may remove the outer dressings 24 hours after surgery but should not have to perform dressing changes or clean the incision with special solutions. The tape will stay in place for about 14 days.

DERMABOND® PRINEO® Skin Closure Tape | Ethicon (jnjmedtech.com)

Goals and phases of recovery

Phase I: 0-2 weeks after surgery

  • Remove outer dressings 24 hours after your procedure
  • Begin home exercises 2-3 times daily for the first two weeks
  • Transition to outpatient physical therapy as soon as possible
  • Continue to ice/elevate the leg for swelling control
  • Decrease narcotic pain medication use

Phase II: 2-6 weeks after surgery

  • Continue outpatient physical therapy and exercises at home. Knee replacement patients should focus heavily on range of motion at this time
  • Stop all narcotic pain medication use
  • Continue to ice/elevate the leg for swelling control

Phase III: 6 weeks-3 months after surgery

  • Continue outpatient physical therapy as needed and graduate to performing exercises at home or in the gym to improve your strength
  • Begin returning to exercises such as golf, swimming, and biking as tolerated
  • Continue ice/elevate the leg for swelling control after significant activities

Phase IV: 3-12 months after surgery

  • Continue exercises at home or in the gym to improve strength
  • Gradually return to all activities as tolerated by 12 months after surgery

What is the recovery time for total joint replacement surgery?

You will be up, walking, performing specific exercises, and climbing stairs the same day of your procedure, however it can take roughly 6-12 months for your strength, and range of motion to return. Additionally, it can be normal to have pain, stiffness, or soreness for the first year after surgery. These symptoms will improve over time throughout your recovery.

What are the normal signs & symptoms after surgery? What to look for that indicates advanced medical care is needed?

Normal

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Difficulties walking/sleeping
  • Pain with motion

Abnormal

  • Fevers over 102
  • Chills
  • Drainage from incision site
  • Calf pain
  • Inability to bear any weight on the leg

How to contact us for help

If you are having a medical emergency such as chest pain or shortness of breath, call 911. Contact our office immediately if you are having any abnormal signs or symptoms listed above. Many abnormal symptoms can be managed in the office so that you do not have to go to an ER or urgent care following surgery. Returning to our office ensures that you are receiving appropriate care for any of the abnormal symptoms listed above.

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Do I need to go to a rehabilitation center after surgery?

Our preference is always to send our patients to the safest place for recovery. In many cases, you are safe to recover in the comfort of your own home. Rehabilitation facilities are reserved for patients who have severe chronic medical conditions who require 24/7 skilled care following surgery. While your insurance plan may state that they cover rehabilitation services, you must first medically qualify for this care. We cannot guarantee that you qualify to attend a rehabilitation center prior to surgery as this decision is made based on your medical status, and progress after surgery. You will speak with a case manager in the hospital regarding this decision.

What are my restrictions after surgery?

Driving: after stopping narcotic pain medications and walker

Swimming: 4-6 weeks after incision has fully healed

Return to work or sports: begin gradual return around 2 months

Full recovery: 6-12 months