A Guide to Good Health

Reducing Infection Risk After Knee Replacement Surgery

If your knee joint has been damaged or worn away as a result of extreme wear and tear or degenerative joint disease, your orthopedic surgeon may have recommended knee replacement surgery. While most people recover from knee replacement surgery without complications, those with preexisting medical problems or immune suppression may be at risk for post-operative infections. Because of this, orthopedic doctors closely monitor their patients for signs and symptoms of post-operative infections and recommend the following risk-reduction interventions.

Physical Therapy Programs

Physical therapy not only helps restore mobility and relieve pain after knee replacement surgery, but it can also help lower the risk of infection. Physical therapy promotes blood flow to the surgical site to speed healing, and it also helps prevent joint failure.

Diabetics who participate in physical therapy programs are also less likely to develop surgical complications related to high blood glucose levels. The exercises performed during therapy sessions help lower blood sugar levels and reduce circulating stress hormone levels such as cortisol.

High levels of cortisol can increase the risk of stubborn wound infections that may be resistant to broad-spectrum antibiotics. At your post-operative appointments, your orthopedic doctor will assess your surgical wound for signs of infection, such as increased redness and swelling at the incision site and drainage. If your wound is infected, your surgeon will prescribe antibiotics.

Wound Care

Prior to discharge, your surgeon will give you a list of instructions you will need to follow when you get home. The instructions will explain how to perform wound care on your knee incision. You will need to follow your doctor's instructions carefully because by doing so, your risk for an incisional infection will remain low. You may need to cleanse your wound, apply an antibiotic ointment to the suture line, and cover it with a sterile dressing.

The instructions will also remind you to monitor the area for excessive bleeding. If blood soaks through the bandage or dressing, call your surgeon as soon as possible. Not only can excessive bleeding indicate an infection, but it may also mean that your wound has opened, which may require a revision surgical procedure right away. If you are unable to reach your surgeon, seek emergency medical attention at the closest hospital so that incisional bleeding can be assessed and treated. 

If you are anticipating knee replacement surgery, consider the above interventions. In addition, keep all of your follow-up appointments, complete your physical therapy program, and take all of your prescribed medications. These interventions will help ensure that you will remain infection-free after your knee surgery. For more tips, reach out to resources like the Orthopaedic Associates Of Rochester.