Commonly asked questions

Call 911 or have someone take you to the nearest hospital Emergency Department if you have any of the following:

  • chest pain
  • trouble breathing or painful breathing
  • shortness of breath.

Call your surgeon if you have:

  • a temperature of 101.6 F or higher
  • problems or signs of infection at your incision site such as:
    • increased pain
    • increased swelling
    • increased redness
    • odor
    • warmth
    • green or yellow discharge
  • any change in your ability to move such as new weakness, or not being able to move your arm or leg
  • signs and symptoms of a blood clot including:
    • pain, swelling or tenderness in the back of one or both lower legs (calves)
    • warmth of the skin in the affected leg
    • redness or discolored skin in the affected leg
    • leg fatigue
  • any change in sensation such as new numbness or tingling
  • any unusual bruising or bleeding
  • severe pain not relieved by medicine, rest or using an ice pack or frozen gel pack as directed
  • any problems, questions or concerns related to your surgery.

Call your primary care provider if you have:

  • feelings of being dizzy, lightheaded or confused
  • an upset stomach (nausea) and throwing up (vomiting) that will not stop
  • any bowel problems such as constipation or bloody stools
  • any problems urinating such as burning, urgency or frequency
  • any other problems, questions or concerns.

What are signs and symptoms of an infection?

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • increased redness, swelling or warmth at the incision site
  • change in color, amount, odor of drainage
  • increased pain in the knee
  • temperature higher than 101.6 F.

Call your surgeon’s office if you have any of the above signs or symptoms.

What are signs and symptoms of a blood clot?

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • swelling in one or both legs
  • pain or tenderness in one or both legs
  • warmth of the skin in the affected leg
  • redness or discolored skin in the affected leg
  • leg fatigue.

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of the above signs or symptoms.

What are signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism?

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • sharp chest pain that may get worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • confusion
  • sweating
  • signs of shock.

Call 911 right away if you have any of the above signs or symptoms.

  • You should look at the area around your incision every day and keep it clean while it heals.
  • Do not put any creams, salves or ointments on the area.
  • Follow your discharge instructions given to you by your surgeon. Ask him or her if you have questions.
  • You may go home with a waterproof dressing covering your incision. You can shower with this dressing on if the edges are not peeling back.
  • If you do not have a waterproof dressing and you still have sutures, staples or stitches, you can cover your incision with plastic to keep it dry while taking a shower.
  • Ask your surgeon when your incision can get wet.
  • You can take a shower as soon as you feel confident to do so.
  • Using a tub or shower chair in the bathtub or shower may offer you extra support and comfort until you are able to become more able to move around (mobile).
  • Do not take a tub bath until your surgeon says it is OK.

Constipation is common after surgery. It can be caused by pain medicines, iron supplements, decreased daily activity and changes in eating habits. See the constipation page for more information.

If your joint replacement has metal, it may set off the metal detectors in airports. It is recommended to tell the security officer that you have a metal implant and where it is located before you go through security screening. The security officer may offer you a private security screening.

Tell health care providers and dentists of your joint replacement before having any surgery, podiatry procedures, dental work, X-rays, or other tests or procedures. You may need to take antibiotics.

Dental work

To help prevent an infection, you may need to take antibiotics before dental work. Talk with your dentist and surgeon so they can work together to decide which type of treatment is right for you.

Ask your surgeon when it is OK to resume having routine dental appointments or any dental work done.

Germs (bacteria) that can cause infections in your teeth or gums can be released into your bloodstream during some dental procedures.

  • Talk with your surgeon about when you can resume driving.
  • You should wait to drive a car until after your first follow-up appointment with your surgeon.
  • Do not drive while taking pain medicine because it can impair your judgment and ability to operate the car safely.
  • Do not use your surgical leg to operate machinery until six weeks after surgery.

You can talk with your health care provider about whether getting a temporary handicap parking permit is right for you.

  • Discuss returning to work or hobbies with your surgeon.
  • You can resume sexual activity when you are ready.
  • A firm mattress is recommended.
  • Be the passive partner for the first six weeks after surgery.
  • Use the missionary position or less dominant position.

Call your surgeon's office for a surgery follow-up appointment if you do not already have one or if you have any questions or concerns. Questions for My Surgeon at My Follow-up Appointment

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Knee Replacement, seventh edition, ortho-ah-90140
First Published: 10/01/2000
Last Reviewed: 02/01/2020