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Outpatient Knee Replacement Surgery: Frequently Asked Questions

An older woman doing knee bends outside.

Advancements in medical technology, technique and pain management have made it possible for some patients to have knee replacement on an outpatient basis. This can offer many benefits to people who qualify for this procedure.

What is outpatient knee replacement surgery?

Outpatient knee replacement surgery, also called “rapid recovery knee replacement,” “same day knee replacement” or “ambulatory knee replacement,” is a total knee replacement procedure that allows qualified patients to return home on the same day of the operation, rather than stay overnight on an inpatient basis.

How do I know if can have an outpatient knee replacement?

Patients who are in good general health, do not smoke, are motivated and have a good support team at home are the best candidates. Those who qualify are given special education on their recovery, which must be followed closely.

If you can answer "yes" to all of the below questions, you may be able to have outpatient knee replacement surgery.

  • Are you between the ages of 18 to 70?
  • Will you have support at home from a family member or friend after your discharge?
  • Are you generally healthy, with no significant medical conditions (for example, sleep apnea, history of heart attack, use of a pacemaker, etc.)?

Consult one of our knee replacement surgeons to find out if you are an appropriate candidate for ambulatory joint replacement. All patients who express interest in the ambulatory joint replacement surgery program are evaluated by both the orthopedic surgeon and our multidisciplinary team. HSS joint replacement specialists perform a thorough evaluation of each patient’s individual circumstance in order to determine their eligibility for same-day knee replacement surgery.

Video: Dr. Haas on outpatient knee replacement

Steven B. Haas, MD Chief of Knee Service, Adult Reconstruction and Joint Replacement Division at Hospital for Special Surgery discusses outpatient knee replacement.

What are the benefits of rapid-recovery knee replacement?

The benefits of this surgery include:

  • lower risk of infection
  • quicker return to normal activities
  • a more comfortable recovery at home

What kind of incision will I have?

The incision will be on the side of your knee and is usually six inches long.

How much pain will I have after my knee surgery?

This varies between patients, however, the advances in pain management have allowed our total knee patients sufficient pain relief to undergo this procedure on an outpatient basis. On average, the pain being reported is generally no more than four out of a 10-point scale. You will have one of us by your side when you wake up and throughout the day until you leave our facility. We can address any pain that you may have promptly and efficiently.

What should I do when I get home?

We ask that you rest. Even though our patients typically feel good, it has still been a long day. On the day of your surgery you will learn how to safely transfer in and out of both the bed and the car. We ask that you use the bathroom as needed, eat dinner and rest. You will have nursing and therapy services the very next day. Wait for further instruction from them.

What medications do I take at home?

You will be given a list of medications to take and when to take them.

When can I take a shower after outpatient knee replacement?

You can take a shower the day after your surgery. Please wait until the visiting nurse and physical therapist arrives. The nurse will check your dressing and your overall health that morning, and the therapist will educate you on how to safely get in and out of the shower.

Your outer padded dressing and tape can be removed. Underneath you will find a clear tape that is glued to your skin. Do not remove this. You may shower with this and get it wet. Please do not scrub the surgical area. Pat dry with a clean towel when you are finished. We also ask that you do not let your surgical site get “soaked” with water. Do not take a bath or get into a pool or hot tub.

When can I drive after outpatient knee replacement?

You will discuss this with your surgeon. It usually averages two to four weeks from the date of your surgery.

Can I walk up and down my stairs after my knee surgery?

You will be instructed on how to go up and down stairs at the surgery center before you leave that day. Most patients have no problems with stairs. We do ask that you keep it to a minimum until the home therapist arrives to further instruct you.

When can I have sex again after outpatient knee replacement?

You will discuss this with your surgeon at your follow-up office visit.

How long should I wear the compression stockings?

You will be asked to continue wearing the stockings on both legs while out of bed for the first two weeks after surgery. The stockings help control the swelling in your legs while you are up and walking around.

What should I do if I fall?

If you fall and you cannot get up, call 911 immediately. If you feel you can safely get up without going beyond your knee precautions you can try. Once you are up, if you have pain with weight bearing on the operative leg, you should call your surgeon or 911.

How long will I have home services?

It is usually two weeks postoperatively, partially depending on your insurance benefits. You then will have a follow-up office visit with your surgeon. At this visit you will be instructed in what to do next regarding therapy.

When do I follow up with my knee surgeon?

Your postoperative appointment will be scheduled for approximately two weeks after surgery. If for some reason it was not, please call the contact numbers in the front of this packet.

Can I kneel on my knee replacement?

It is perfectly safe to kneel on a knee replacement once your incision is completely healed. However, most people find it relatively uncomfortable, and if you are going to kneel, it is recommended that you put a pad or pillow underneath your knee to make it more comfortable.


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