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Care equipment used after knee replacement surgery

After your surgery, you may need to use some special equipment to help speed your recovery.

Cold therapy

Cold therapy on your incision will help reduce swelling and pain. The most common types of cold therapy are an ice bag or a machine that circulates ice water through a pad over your incision.

Continuous passive motion (CPM) machine

The CPM machine is designed to bend and straighten the knee in a gentle manner to help keep your knee mobile.

If your doctor prescribes a CPM machine, you should remember the following points.

  • The machine is typically placed on the knee after surgery, which may cause more discomfort. Be sure to ask for pain medicine.
  • Depending on your doctor's orders, the degree of flexion (bend in the knee) will be regularly increased to reach at least a 90-degree bend.
  • Use the CPM machine as much as possible. Combining exercises with using the machine will help you achieve maximum flexibility in your knee.
  • Tell your nurse right away if you have any sensation changes (numbness, burning, itchiness, and so on) in your involved leg.

Graduated compression stockings (white elastic socks)

Graduated compression stockings stockings (white elastic socks) reduce the chance of blood clots forming in your legs after surgery. Because you are not active after surgery, the blood flow to your legs and feet is reduced. This slower blood circulation can cause blood clots to form.

The stockings prevent the blood flow from slowing down. You will wear these 24 hours a day and take them off for a total of 20 to 30 minutes twice a day.

Incentive spirometer

The incentive spirometer is a breathing aid that helps keep your lungs healthy after surgery. Use it along with your deep breathing and coughing exercises.

Knee immobilizer

The knee immobilizer may be used to provide extra support and keeps your leg straight.

Patient controlled analgesia (PCA) machine

The PCA machine allows you to give your own pain medicine and is generally used for one day after surgery. By pushing a button, you can give small doses of pain medicine through your IV. The PCA machine has safety features that reduces the risk of getting too much medicine and is designed for only the patient to use.

Sequential compression device (SCD)/Plexi-Pulse machine

Either the SCD or the Plexi-PulseĀ® machine may be used to increase circulation and help prevent blood clots. The SCD consists of plastic leggings and the Plexi-Pulse consists of plastic foot wraps attached to a small machine that pumps air into air pockets in the wraps.

After the wraps/leggings are applied, air is pumped in and then released. This pumping action, repeated regularly during the day or night, helps improve circulation and prevent blood clots.

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Source: Allina Patient Education, Total Knee Replacement, third edition, ortho-ahc-90140

First published: 10/01/2000
Last updated: 12/01/2006

Reviewed by: Allina Patient Education experts