How long will it take to recover from my knee operation?
A comparative guide to recovery times for some of the most popular knee operations and treatments:
Knee pain is a common complaint that can affect people of all ages and differing lifestyles. There are several reasons that someone may look to have treatment for a knee ailment – injury such as a ruptured ligament or torn cartilage, tendonitis or a dislocated kneecap, or medical conditions including arthritis, gout or severe infections.
Many types of minor knee pain can respond to self-care methods such as physical therapy or bracing, whereas others may need further medical intervention or even surgery.
A knee injury can affect any of the ligaments, tendons or fluid filled sacs that surround the knee joint as well as the bones, cartilage, and ligaments that form the joint itself.
We’ve rounded up some of the most common injuries and ailments and compared average recovery times for those procedures. There are so many factors, including age, height, weight, lifestyle, severity of injury, and each person is different so everyone will take time to heal in a different way.
An ACL injury is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament – one of the few ligaments that connect your shinbone to your thighbone. An ACL injury is particularly common with people who play football or basketball or any sport that requires a sudden change in direction. They are the most common types of knee injuries and comprise of 40% of all sporting injuries. You can tear your ACL if your lower leg extends forwards too much and can tear if your knee and lower leg are twisted. If it is torn, your knee can become extremely unstable and lose its full range of motion.
Treatment and Surgery
The decision to have knee surgery will depend on the exact damage to the ACL and whether it is affecting your quality of life. Delaying treatment can cause further damage to the knee.
Before surgery the patient will have to wait for the immediate swelling to go down and for movement to return to the knee. They may also have to wait until the muscles at the front and back of the thigh are as strong as possible. Without this full range of motion in the knee before surgery, recovery will be much more difficult. It is likely to take three weeks after injury for the full range of motion to return at all and patients often need the services of a physiotherapist to regain this motion.
A torn ACL cannot be simply repaired by stitching it back together but can be reconstructed by attaching or grafting new tissue onto it. The ACL can be reconstructed by removing what remains of the torn ligament and replacing it with a tendon from another area of the leg, such as the hamstring or patellar tendon. The patellar tendon attaches the bottom of the kneecap (patella) to the top of the shinbone (tibia).
ACL surgery fully restores the functioning of the knee in more than 80% of cases. Your knee, however, will never be exactly the same again, and you may still suffer pain and swelling. This could be due to other injuries, such as tears to the cartilage, which happened at the same time or even after.
As with all types of surgery, there are risks associated with knee surgery including infections, blood clots, knee pain, weakness, and stiffness. There is also a small chance (one in ten) that the newly grafted ligament will fail, and the knee will still be unstable. Even if the first operation is successful, further surgery may still be recommended.
After ACL surgery, a few people may still experience knee pain and instability. Recovery can take around six months, but it could take up to a year before a patient can return to any training or sporting activity. After the surgery the wound is closed with stitches or surgical clips. It will also need washing and banding and even the use of a cryo cuff which is a waterproof bandage that contains ice to reduce the swelling. There may also be painful bruising, swelling, and redness down the front of the shin and ankle, caused by fluid inside the knee joint leaking down the shin.
A normal level of activity can be resumed between six weeks and six months after surgery and a return to work could happen after two to three weeks or up to three months for any physical or manual labour.
Knee Replacements (total and partial)
There are two main types of surgery – Total knee replacement where both sides of the knee joint are replaced or a Partial knee replacement where only one side of the joint is replaced. Partial is the smaller operation of the two and with a shorter hospital stay and recovery period.
A total knee replacement is a surgical procedure whereby the diseased knee joint is replaced with artificial material. The knee is a hinge joint that provides motion at the point where the thigh meets the lower leg. The thighbone (or femur) abuts the large bone of the lower leg (tibia) at the knee joint. During a total knee replacement, the end of the femur bone is removed and replaced with a metal shell. The end of the lower leg bone (tibia) is also removed and replaced with a channeled plastic piece with a metal stem.
Risks of total knee replacement include blood clots in the legs that can travel to the lungs (pulmonaryembolism). This can cause shortness of breath, chest pain and even shock. Other risks include urinary tract infections, nausea and vomiting, chronic knee pain and stiffness, bleeding in the knee joint, nerve damage, blood vessel injury and infections of the knee which can require further surgery. The risks of anesthesia include potential heart, lung, kidney, and liver damage.
For an optimal outcome after total knee replacement surgery, it is important for patients to continue in an outpatient physical-therapy program along with home exercises during the healing process. Patients will be asked to continue exercising the muscles around the replaced joint to prevent scarring (and contracture) and maintain muscle strength for the purposes of joint stability. The wound will be monitored by the surgeon for healing. Patients also should watch for warning signs of infection, including abnormal redness, increasing warmth, swelling, or unusual pain. The treating physician will typically prescribe antibiotics before, during, and immediately after any elective procedures in order to prevent infection of the replaced joint.
Though infrequent, patients with total knee replacements may require a second operation years later.
Partial knee replacement (also called unicompartmental knee arthroplasty) is surgery that may be used to treat severe knee arthritis that affects only one part of the knee. Partial knee replacement surgery although runs the risks of any surgical procedure, involves a smaller incision (surgery cut) than traditional total knee replacement surgery.
The advantages of this type of surgery over total knee replacement include a quicker recovery, (although this would still be months) and less pain after surgery and less blood loss.
Because the bone, cartilage, and ligaments in the healthy parts of the knee are kept, most people say that a partial knee replacement feels more ‘natural’ than a total knee replacement, and it usually bends much better.
Non-surgical procedures should always be considered first to prolong the need for surgery. If you have knee pain, knee replacement surgery should be the final option. Although knee surgery is common and safe, it is still major surgery and has associated risks and a long term recovery period.
Knee arthritis or sports injury
For a broad spectrum of knee problems many people are now turning to regenerative alternatives to surgery because of their short, or instantaneous recovery time. Although injected cells may take time to settle and improve over time, there is no requirement to rest up or have time off in the short term.
Lipogems® specialise in treating orthopaedic injuries, sports injuries, arthritis and other degenerative conditions but using advanced non-surgical techniques including stem cell therapy. It is always advisable to discuss non-surgical treatments first and your age should also be considered. Older patients tend to have more success with knee replacements as they are less active and therefore take longer to wear out the product. Young patients obviously want to return to a more active lifestyle quicker and run the risk of decreasing the life expectancy of the joint.
There are a number of non – operative alternatives available for the knee. These can all alleviate symptoms of joint cartilage damage whilst focus on repairing and healing in a quicker time-frame and minimal hospital admittance.
Treatment and Surgery
Knee stem cell therapy, AMPP® Activated Mesenchymal Pericyte Plasma (using Lipogems® technology) and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy can delay or avoid the need for knee surgery. The treatments are minimally invasive, can decrease inflammation, stop the progression of arthritic damage and repair joint cartilage. The recovery time is also much shorter than with surgery.
AMPP® injections are a pioneering new treatment using the body’s own stem cells from a combination of Lipogems® and PRP therapy to treat pain and inflammation. The minimally invasive procedure is a possible alternative to having an operation or can be used after surgery to help healing. It harnesses natural repair cells removed from your body fat to target problems affecting joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles. The procedure takes around an hour and early results suggest an improvement for around 75% of suitable patients.
This treatment contains concentrated blood plasma as well as adipose-based pericytes harvested with Lipogems®. This type of treatment is superior both in regeneration and in healing and can have this at the same time as the treatment of other joints, the results of which have been very positive.
PRP Therapy supports the body’s self-healing processes by using its own cells. Blood is mostly liquid (called plasma) but also contains solid component including red cells, white cells and platelets. The platelets are important for clotting blood but they also contain proteins called growth factors which are important in the healing of injuries.
With a higher concentration of growth factors than typically found in blood, PRP injections support the restoration of injured tissue and inhibit painful inflammatory processes. This treatment is widely researched and supported in clinical papers.
Immediately after the treatment, the patient is carefully monitored for several hours by a team of specialist nurses, to make sure that they are feeling well and the small incision sites are healing correctly. A physiotherapist will be required to deliver a programme of exercises, which will begin around forty-eight hours after treatment and designed for speedy patient recovery
Most patients will not need to have any stitches at all, to close the tiny incisions which will heal naturally and will be covered with an absorbent dressing pad and compression wrap for twenty four to forty eight hours after the procedure.
Thereafter, people usually walk out of the clinic a few hours after having treatment and after taking it easy for a day or so are able to return to normal work and full activity. The recovery time is a major positive factor for many people when choosing the treatment that they are going to have on their knee.