Thumbnail image of: Knee Replacement: Illustration

Knee Replacement Surgery Discharge Information

What is knee replacement surgery?

The knee is a large joint that joins your thigh bone (femur) with your shin bone (tibia). The kneecap (patella) and the smaller bone in your lower leg (fibula) are also part of this joint. Tendons connect your leg muscles to the knee bones so that the joint can move. Ligaments connect the bones of the joint to one another and give the knee stability. The cartilage and fluid-filled sacs in the joint help the knee move smoothly.

The most common cause for knee replacement is severe pain, often from arthritis. The surgery is done to remove damaged bone and cartilage from the knee joint and replace it with man-made pieces. There are 3 knee joint surfaces that may be affected: the lower end of the thigh bone, the upper end of the shin bone, and the back of your kneecap.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

How long it takes to get better depends on how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Help prevent blood clots
    • Help build bone and prevent bone loss
  • You may need to continue a rehabilitation program after you leave the hospital to help you recover from knee replacement surgery. Most rehabilitation programs include:
    • Physical therapy to help you regain muscle strength and teach you ways to move safely
    • Occupational therapy to help you relearn safe ways to do the tasks that you did before your knee replacement surgery
  • To care for your incision:
    • Keep your incision clean.
    • If you are told to change your dressing on your incision, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments and routine tests.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or fears you have.

Diet, Exercise, and Other Lifestyle Changes

  • Follow the treatment plan your healthcare provider prescribes.
  • Get plenty of rest while you’re recovering. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color, unless you are told to limit fluids.
  • Exercise as your provider recommends.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can delay healing.
  • Lose weight if you need to and keep a healthy weight.
  • Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
  • Find someone to help you with your activities for a time after you go home.
  • Make your home safe to prevent injury and help you heal. This may include:
    • Removing throw rugs from the floors to prevent tripping
    • Installing hand rails or grab bars in showers or other areas where you may slip

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • If you are taking medicine to prevent blood clots, unusual or unexpected bleeding, including:
    • Bleeding from your ears or nose
    • Black, tarry bowel movements or blood in your bowel movement
    • Blood in your urine or red or brown colored urine
    • Blood in your vomit or dark, brown or black material in your vomit that looks like coffee grounds
    • Coughing up blood

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Pain that is not controlled with your medicines
  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
    • The area around your wound is more red or painful.
    • Your wound area is very warm to touch.
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area.
    • You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C).
    • You have chills or muscle aches.
  • Coldness or change in color of the skin of your leg, ankle, or foot on the side of your knee replacement
  • Warmth, redness, swelling or pain in either leg
  • If you are taking medicine to prevent blood clots, new bruises or severe bruising
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-10-24
Last reviewed: 2013-10-12
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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