Total Knee Replacement Surgery | Scars & Post-Op Wound Care

Ms. Thula Chelvan
Published at: 20/3/2024

Total Knee Replacement Surgery | Scars & Post-Op Wound Care

Key Takeaways

  • Immediately after surgery, keep the wound dry and covered to prevent infection.

  • Inspect your scar daily for signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or discharge.

  • During the first six weeks, clean the incision gently and follow your surgeon’s advice on wound care.

  • Use recommended products and techniques to minimize scarring once the wound has healed.

  • Contact your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your scar’s appearance or healing process.

Celebrating the Milestone: Your New Knee

Congratulations! Your knee replacement is a significant step towards a more active and pain-free life. But, as with any surgery, the journey to recovery requires careful attention to your wound care. Let's walk through what you need to know to ensure your new knee heals beautifully and functions well.

What is a Knee Replacement?

A knee replacement is a surgical procedure where a damaged knee joint is replaced with artificial components. It's a common and highly successful operation that can drastically improve the quality of life for those suffering from severe knee pain or mobility issues.

The Expected Look of Your Scar Post-Surgery

After your surgery, you'll have a scar, typically 4-6 inches long, over your knee. Initially, it may look red and feel tender, but over time, it should become less noticeable. Remember, every person's body heals differently, so your scar's healing process may vary.

Immediate Post-Op Care: First 24 Hours

The first day after your knee replacement is crucial for setting the stage for a good recovery. Your wound will be covered with a sterile dressing to protect it from infection. It's essential to keep this dressing dry and intact.

The Basics of Dressing Your Wound

Here's what you need to do:

  • Keep the dressing clean and dry at all times.

  • Avoid taking showers; opt for sponge baths instead to prevent the dressing from getting wet.

  • Do not remove or tamper with the dressing unless instructed by your healthcare provider.

Monitoring for Complications

After knee replacement surgery, it's vital to watch for any signs of complications. These include:

  • Increased pain, redness, or swelling around the incision.

  • Any drainage from the incision that is not clear.

  • Fever or chills, which could indicate an infection.

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

The Healing Journey: Weeks 1 to 6

The weeks following your knee replacement are a time of healing and gradual improvement. Here's how to care for your incision during this period.

Cleaning and Caring for Your Incision

Once your surgeon gives you the green light to start cleaning your incision, follow these steps:

  • Gently wash the area with soap and water; do not scrub.

  • Pat the area dry with a clean towel; do not rub.

  • Apply any ointments as prescribed by your doctor.

It's essential to be gentle with your new incision to avoid reopening the wound.

Watching for Symptoms of Infection

As your incision heals, it's critical to remain vigilant for any symptoms that might suggest an infection. These symptoms can include increased warmth, redness, swelling, or the incision feeling hot to the touch. Additionally, if you notice any pus or an unpleasant odor, or if you develop a fever, these are signs that you should contact your healthcare provider without delay.

Scars Management: Balms and Massages

Once your wound has closed and your surgeon confirms it's safe, you can start using balms and gently massaging your scar. This can help to keep the skin supple and may reduce scar tissue buildup. Look for balms with ingredients like vitamin E, which can help moisturize and heal the skin. However, always check with your healthcare provider before applying anything to your scar.

Long-Term Scar Care

Long-term scar care begins once your incision has fully healed. At this stage, your focus shifts to scar minimization and ensuring the best possible cosmetic and functional outcome.

When to Start Using Scar Minimization Techniques

You should start scar minimization techniques once your surgeon gives you the go-ahead, usually when the wound has completely healed and there's no risk of reopening. This typically occurs several weeks after surgery.

Techniques for scar minimization include:

  • Using silicone gel sheets or strips, which can help flatten and soften the scar.

  • Continuing to gently massage the scar with a moisturizer to promote flexibility.

  • Protecting the scar from sun exposure by using sunscreen or covering it with clothing, as UV rays can darken the scar.

Products That Can Help Reduce Scarring

There are a variety of products that can help reduce the appearance of scars. These include:

  • Over-the-counter scar reduction creams and ointments.

  • Prescription creams if your scar is more severe.

  • Silicone sheets or gels designed for scar care.

It's important to follow the product instructions and consult your healthcare provider for recommendations tailored to your specific needs.

Advanced Tips for Scar Care

For those looking to go the extra mile in scar care, consider the following advanced tips:

Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, which is essential for skin healing. Also, keep active as recommended by your physical therapist to promote circulation, but be careful not to put undue stress on the healing scar.

Professional Scar Therapy Options

If you're concerned about the appearance of your scar or if it's causing discomfort, there are professional therapy options available. These include laser therapy, which can help improve the color and texture of the scar, and steroid injections, which can help reduce scar tissue buildup. Consult with a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon who specializes in scar management to explore these options.

Lifestyle Adjustments for Better Healing

Lifestyle adjustments can play a significant role in your healing process. These adjustments might include:

  • Avoiding smoking, as it can impair wound healing.

  • Limited alcohol consumption, as it can cause dehydration and affect healing.

  • Ensuring adequate sleep, as it allows your body to repair itself.

Embracing Your Scar: A Mark of Strength

Your scar is a symbol of the journey you've undertaken to regain mobility and reduce pain. Embrace it as a mark of strength and perseverance. While you may be eager to minimize its appearance, remember that it represents a significant life improvement.

When to Seek Professional Advice for Scar Concerns

If you have any concerns about how your scar is healing, don't hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider. Whether it's a question about the scar's appearance, a sensation you're experiencing, or uncertainty about the healing process, your medical team is there to support you.

Remember, your journey to recovery is unique, and so is your scar. With the proper care and attention, you can ensure the best possible outcome for both your scar and your new knee.

When to Seek Professional Advice for Scar Concerns

If your scar is causing you pain, appears to be getting worse, or isn't healing as expected, it's important to reach out to your healthcare provider. Some redness and tenderness are normal in the early stages of healing, but persistent or worsening symptoms could indicate a problem. Here's what to watch out for:

  • Redness that spreads from the incision site

  • Increased pain or swelling

  • Heat emanating from the scar

  • Any discharge or unpleasant odor

  • Any opening of the wound

In these cases, professional advice is crucial to prevent complications and ensure proper healing.

MSK Doctors for Total Knee Replacement Surgery

MSK Doctors stands at the forefront of musculoskeletal health. We specialize in connecting patients with expert doctors and surgeons for conditions like post-total knee replacement wound care.

Our commitment lies in offering comprehensive, high-quality information, trusted resources, and services across the UK for those seeking musculoskeletal care.

Contact us today to discover more about how we can assist with wound care after total knee replacement surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Can I submerge my knee in water post-surgery?

It's important not to submerge your knee in water until your surgeon gives you the all-clear. This usually means waiting until the incision has fully healed, which could be several weeks. Soaking in a bath, swimming, or using a hot tub can introduce bacteria to the wound and should be avoided until it's safe.

2. How often should I change my knee dressing?

Your surgeon will provide specific instructions on how often to change your dressing. This typically depends on the type of dressing used and how much the wound is draining. It's crucial to follow these instructions carefully to prevent infection.

3. When can I expect to start physical therapy post-knee replacement?

Physical therapy usually starts within a day or two after surgery. The early exercises focus on preventing blood clots and improving circulation. As you heal, the exercises will become more challenging to help you regain strength and mobility in your knee.

4. What are the best exercises for scar healing?

Once your wound has healed, scar massage can be beneficial. Gentle massage in circular motions can help prevent the scar tissue from adhering to underlying structures, which can improve movement and reduce discomfort. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise or scar treatment.

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