Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Partial Knee Replacement Healing and Rehab

In recovery a few minutes before
they told me to walk.
While you may not consider my knee replacement a "horse" or "dressage" topic to me it is ... because it was the day I realized that I was not enjoying or able to ride my horse that I knew it was time to head under the knife. I tried to make it work by finding new ways to get on and off and taking pain meds but in the end it was just too painful to tack him up and ride and I was riding less and less.  It felt like a chisel was permanently installed in my kneecap.

<Warning up high in this blog entry… I put some pics of the knee as it is healing at the bottom.  If you are squeamish you may want to stop halfway through.>

I know many riders face this same decision so perhaps a log of how mine went might be helpful to someone.

My surgery was eight days ago last Monday. I arrived at the hospital at 8 am for pre-op, bloodwork and to confirm for the second time that week that I was not pregnant. (No chance of it but they didn't believe me.) The lack of fluids through the night made the IV difficult to place but by 10 am and with the help of the anesthesiologist; I had an IV and was bent over so they could place an epidural in my spine.  I remember bending over and the stick and that must have been when they knocked me out because the next thing I remember was waking slightly during the surgery to have them tell me that it was nearing the end of the surgery. 

I had an epidural so I could very lightly be put under (making it easier to come out of anesthesia).  I woke up a couple of times during surgery but it was like being VERY drunk.  I didn’t care in the least that I was in the OR. 

By 12:30 I was in the recovery room and by 2:30 I was walking with a walker to the bathroom.  I have to admit I was a little terrified when they asked me to walk and put weight on a leg they had just chopped but it turns out the pain meds were still working well and I did pretty well getting there. 

I had what is called a partial knee replacement which means that they replaced only the joint on the inside of my knee – the area of my knee with the majority of the arthritis and the cause of my pain.  The recovery is generally faster and there is much less blood loss.

By a little after 3 pm I was in the passenger seat of the car and heading home.  The surgery was a little over an hour away from our house and I rode all the way home with my eyes shut praying I wasn’t going to throw up.  (I didn’t but I had a bag ready.)

We had to pick up my son from school on the way.  As he approached the car, “Mom, what is wrong with YOU?”  

“I just had surgery… I don’t feel well.”

“Oh… well you look like you are dying.”

Thanks.  You can always count on teenage sons for the truth.

The first couple of days were not fun.  I had physical therapy the first day and they spend most of it trying to see how far they can bend your knee.   I was sure the stitches barely holding my swollen knee together were going to burst in the therapists face.  I couldn’t believe he wasn’t ducking.

Each day gets better though.  You have a decent day and decide that sure… you can go to work for a couple of hours.  I mean all I do is sit -- its not like I work construction.  What’s the difference between sitting there and sitting at home?   I tried going for two hours on Tuesday and paid for it all night.  No sleep because the pain meds just couldn’t keep up.

I haven’t seen my horse since the night before the surgery.  I hope he remembers me.  I am hoping that next week I can start driving again and can stop relying on wonderful friends who are currently caring for my horses.   Until I wean myself off the pain meds I can’t drive.  Right now I am down to a little less than half the dose I was on the first week so I am getting there.

The good news is that although my knee hurts its completely different than the hurt before the surgery.  Instead of getting worse every day … its getting better every day.  I have high hopes that I will be riding soon and will be doing it pain free.   The goal is to be able to bend my knee at least 120 degrees and extend it completely flat at 0 degrees.    At my therapy session yesterday I was at 108 degrees flexion and 2 degrees extension.

I can’t wait to  post the entry about my first ride after surgery.  The sooner the better.

The picture to the left is the day after surgery.  The word "Yes" I had to write
on there to make sure they replaced the correct knee.  The knee to the right
is a week after surgery.  The bruising didn't start showing up until
about day three.



  1. It's good to see you recovering after your partial knee replacement surgery. It feels wonderful that you are recovering and I will pray god to heal you soon.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to blog about your knee. I am having the same surgery on Thursday and am searching for people's opinions good and bad. How is the recovery going for you? I read a runners blog that said expect 18months for a full recovery. If you have time let me know.


  3. I am now 6 months out from surgery and it feels great. Still numbness around the knee but I have full flexibility (I can touch my foot to my butt) and very little pain. I started riding my horse at five weeks and ride now without thinking about it too much at all. Very glad I did the surgery.

    Best advice I can give you is to push it during therapy. It WILL hurt. Each time the therapist asked me if it hurt, I responded with, "will it make it better if you do it?" and if the answer was "yes" then we did it. Pain in the short term did not matter. I was in it to get better. I saw many people during therapy who didn't do something if it caused them any discomfort and some of them were still in therapy six months later and still not with great flexibility. Also, make sure you get a good therapist who pushes you. I was at therapy three times a week for almost two hours each time and I started the day after the surgery. I think pushing it hard during the therapy made all the difference in the world in my recovery.

    Good luck with your surgery and let me know how it goes!

  4. Brianna good to hear it was successful. I finally made the decision to have mine done. I'm 48 and on my feet all day and at work and my quality of life is rock bottom. I need a full but they tell me a partial will be beneficial since my pain is all medial. I've had a scope and it did nothing because the arthritis is so advanced. I had a High Tibial Osteotomy on my right knee 5 years ago that's been very beneficial but that is old technology now. What I'm wondering is how long did you need assistance with walker or crutches? When did you feel comfortable without using assistance?


  5. I never used the walker outside the first hour after surgery. I used two crutches for about a week and a single crutch for about 3 weeks I think. I felt I could go without the crutch before the doctors did but they didn't want me to walk at all with a limp so they said to use the crutch so my body wouldn't heal with a limp action. Best advice I can give you is to get the best surgeon you can (I traveled to the city to get mine after I did research on who had the best results) and do your PT to the best of your ability. In order for the PT to work it will hurt at times and you will be working hard. The people I know who did not have successful replacements are the ones that didn't put all they had into the PT. I have some other postings about my knee surgery as it progressed -- do a search on my blog to find them. Good luck!

  6. Here is one of the postings and it looks like I stopped using crutches at about week 2. Can't remember that far back!

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  8. do you know what it was that caused you to need the surgery?

  9. Multiple things caused the degeneration of cartilage. Sports and general wear and tear ripped meniscus and caused damage and then I had to take high does steroids for a sudden hearing loss that finished it off and accelerated the damage.

  10. I really like your post so much.. Thank you for sharing! :)
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I love to get feedback and hear about your journey-- please share!