Preparing for Knee Replacement Surgery

Preparing for Knee Replacement Surgery

Getting ready for a knee replacement begins a few weeks before your actual surgery. Below you’ll find a checklist of things you and your caregiver can do to prepare, and some tips on how to get your body in the best shape possible to help make your recovery faster and easier.

What plans should I make before surgery?

There’s a lot to plan for before your surgery, but by being prepared you can help your recovery go much more smoothly —­­ so you can get back to the moments that matter.

  • Make caregiver arrangements: For the first few weeks after surgery, you’ll need someone with you for most of the day to help with everything from preparing meals to getting in and out of the bath.
  • Learn as much as you can: Get educated about knee replacement surgery from your doctor or a community health education class.
  • Schedule dental work: If you need dental work, even just a cleaning, have it done before your surgery to reduce the risk of infection in your joint.
  • Get your medical clearance: If your surgeon has asked you to get a medical clearance, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for a preoperative history and physical exam.
  • Reduce risk factors: Quit smoking, drinking caffeinated beverages, taking herbal remedies, and other things your surgeon recommends.
  • Donate blood: Talk with your surgeon about whether you should donate blood prior to your surgery for possible use in a blood transfusion.
  • Take time off: If you’re employed, take time off for your surgery and recovery.
  • Find out if you qualify for State Disability Insurance (SDI): If you live in California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico or Rhode Island, contact your human resources department to see.
  • Get a Temporary Disabled Parking Pass: Ask your surgeon how to apply for one.

How should I get medically ready for surgery?

The hope with knee replacement surgery is that you can get back to doing what you love before you were interrupted by knee pain. To get the best possible outcome — less joint pain and swelling, increased range of motion and improved strength — you may need to adjust certain lifestyle habits in the weeks leading up to your operation.

Man and woman eating salad


Prior to surgery, you should pay close attention to your nutrition. Protein, calcium and vitamin D all help in the bone healing process, and your surgeon will let you know if you should be taking any supplements beyond what you’re eating. Also, it’s important to stop taking any herbal medications 2-3 weeks prior to surgery, as they may interact with the anesthesia, along with abstaining from alcohol and caffeine at least one week before your surgery, as they may cause bleeding problems during and after surgery.

People exercising at a gym

Weight Loss

Since your knees bear most of your body’s weight, heavier patients present more complications during and after surgery. So talk with your doctor about whether your recovery and physical therapy would benefit from lowering your body weight and what the right program might be for you.

Putting out a cigarette

Stop Smoking

Studies show that patients who smoke experience almost 50% more surgical site infections and pulmonary complications such as pneumonia1 as patients who don’t smoke. So it may be a good time to choose to quit in the weeks leading up to your knee replacement, but if you don’t, your doctor will most likely ask you not to smoke for at least 24 hours before your surgery.

Doctor speaking to patient

Other Medical Conditions

In the weeks leading up to your surgery, let your doctor know if you become ill or experience any other medical condition, including everything from a cold or the flu, to a sprain, an allergic reaction or an open wound. Your surgeon will determine if it’s necessary to reschedule your procedure.

What are some pre-op exercises?

Exercising daily can help you prepare your body for knee replacement surgery, as the stronger your thigh and leg muscles are, the more stable your knee joint is. Below are a few different exercises you can do, but talk to your doctor and physical therapist before starting a routine.

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  1. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) 2011 Annual Meeting. Abstract 473. Presented February 17, 2011. Source. Site reviewed 2/22/11.


As with any medical treatment, individual results may vary. The performance of knee replacements depends on your age, weight, activity level, and other factors. There are potential risks, and recovery takes time. People with conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can determine if knee replacement is right for you.

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