Swelling after total knee replacement

"Swelling after total knee replacement" Does it sound familiar story?

It is one of the most common concerns expressed after knee replacement surgery. So, why is there post-operative swelling and what can be done to treat it?

First, let us see why swelling occurs…

Swelling is one of the primary signs of inflammation. Whenever there is inflammation at a joint, as in knee arthritis, swelling results. This is one of the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

So, why is there swelling after total knee replacement? Surgery for a total knee replacement requires a 10 - 12-inch surface incision. The muscles are then cut to reach the joint. One the joint has been exposed, the surfaces of the arthritic bone are cut to install the implant.

swelling after total knee replacement

Knee replacement surgery requires substantial cutting of muscle and bone. And the cutting causes swelling to occur. Is swelling after a TKR a bad thing?

The answer depends on how far post-op you are and the amount of swelling you are experiencing. Usually, after surgery, there will be swelling in and around the knee joint and incision line.

This is normal and should not be cause for concern. It will decrease gradually over the next 3 – 6 months. In some cases, the swelling also occurs in the lower leg and shin area. This happens especially after sitting for extended periods without having the leg elevated.

If the swelling does not decrease within 3-6 months post-op, or if swelling appears to increase suddenly, a complication could be indicated for which you should immediately contact your doctor.

What should you do to help alleviate swelling after knee replacement?

As we have heard so many times icing is the best treatment. It is also important to elevate the leg when sitting and to avoid standing for long periods.

If you see swelling at the ankle when lying down, elevate your lower leg by placing a pillow under the calf and/or ankle. This will facilitate lymphatic drainage and thus help reduce the swelling.

Any time there is a substantial increase of swelling after total knee replacement you should contact your doctor ASAP.

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