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When You’re Having a Knee Replacement

While Waiting for Surgery

​​It’s important to be prepared and as healthy as possible before your surgery. You can do many things to get yourself ready.

Be sure you understand what’s being done and what you’re agreeing to when you sign the consent form for surgery. Read this guide before going to your Hip and Knee Replacement teaching class and write down your questions or concerns. Make sure you understand the risks of surgery.

​​​​​Having a Healthy Body Before Surgery

Eat healthy food: Use Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide to choose the type and amount of food you need for good health.

Healthy eating before surgery will help you:

  • lower the chance of getting sick, which can delay your surgery
  • build up iron in your blood to give you more energy and help you heal faster
  • reach and stay at a healthy weight

Improve the health of your blood: You may be asked to join a program to make your blood healthier. Studies show that people with healthy blood before surgery are less likely to need a blood transfusion during surgery, spend less time in the hospital, and recover faster.

Quit (or cut down) smoking: It takes longer to heal when you smoke. If you need help to quit, call 1-866-710-QUIT or go to​. ​Note: Smoking is not allowed on hospital property.

Look after health problems before surgery: This especially includes problems with your teeth, eyes, and bladder. Men need to also make sure any problems with their prostate are being managed. Make sure you fill your prescriptions and take them as prescribed.

Get dental work done: You must have any problems with your teeth taken care of at least 6 to 8 weeks before surgery to lower your risk of infection after surgery. Get your teeth cleaned.

Your surgery will be delayed if you’re having problems with your teeth at the time of surgery.

Stay active and do your exercises: Keep doing your regular activities. Begin right away to build strength in your legs, arms, and stomach by doing the Phase 1 Exercises. Doing these exercises before surgery will help you get moving again after surgery.

​​​​​Arranging for Help After Surgery

Have help when you go home: You’ll likely be in the hospital for 1 to 2 days. Here are some of the ways your support person (buddy, family or friends) can help you once you’re home:

  • taking you to and from appointments
  • staying with you if you live alone
  • giving your blood thinner injection
  • helping with your bandages
  • doing housework and yard work, driving, shopping, and making meals

Arrange a ride: You could be released from the hospital at any time of the day so make sure your buddy, family, or a friend can pick you up with little notice.

Arrange care: If someone depends on you for care, arrange for someone else to give the care while you’re recovering.

​​​​​Preparing Your Home for After Surgery

Get your home ready. Make your home as safe as possible:

  • Arrange items in the kitchen and other areas of your home so you can reach them without bending too much or twisting your new knee.
  • Adjust your bed so that the top of the mattress is 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) above your knee.
  • Position your furniture so that you have space to move around safely using a walker or crutches.
  • Remove loose mats or clutter that could cause you to trip or slip.
  • Install handrails on stairways or arrange to have your buddy, family, or a friend help you go up and down the stairs when you first get home.
  • Make sure you have the right type of chair (see Going Home and Managing at Home).
  • If you have a tub with a shower door, take off the door and replace it with a shower curtain.
  • Have all of the equipment you’ll need for your recovery ready 1 to 2 weeks before surgery (see below). Having the equipment ahead of time gives you time to practice with it before​ surgery.

Have the heavy housework done ahead of time: Do laundry, vacuuming, and other heavy work around the house before your surgery.

​​​​​A Few Days Before Surgery

  • Plan for your food needs: Stock up on groceries and make frozen meals.
  • Don’t use any lotions or creams: Stop using any kind of lotion or cream on your legs starting 5 days before surgery.
  • DO​ NOT shave your legs 2 weeks before surgery.

Taking Medicine Before Surgery

Your doctors and Case Manager will tell you which of your prescription and non-prescription medicine to stop taking before surgery.

Tell your Case Manager before surgery if:

  • you’re allergic to any medicine, latex, or metals
  • there’s a change in your medicine (for example, your dose changes or you start a new medicine)
  • your health changes

Make sure your healthcare team knows what pain medicine you take before your surgery.

Equipment You Need After Surgery

It’s important to use the equipment in the list below to protect your knee and lower your risk of falling after surgery and once you’re home. Have the equipment ready 1 to 2 weeks before surgery so you can practice with it. You may need this equipment below for 3 months after surgery:

  • crutches, cane, and walker
  • reacher
  • chair with armrests
  • sock aid, elastic shoe laces, and a long-handled shoehorn
  • non-slip bath mat
  • other equipment your healthcare team suggests
  • raised toilet seat
  • toilet arm rests
  • long-handled sponge/brush
  • bathtub or shower seat, and bathtub transfer bench (if you take baths)
  • movable tub grab bar (not recommended for fibreglass tubs)

You may be able to:

  • buy or rent equipment from a pharmacy
  • borrow equipment from a medical equipment loan program if there’s one in your area
  • borrow equipment from friends or family as long as the items are in good working order, safe, and the right type for your height and weight
  • borrow equipment from the Community Health Unit or Home Care
​​ ​

Current as of: May 6, 2019

Author: Bone and Joint Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services