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Wound care after knee replacement


An incision is a "cut" through the skin that is made during surgery. It is also called a "surgical wound." Some incisions are small, and others are very long. The size of your incision will depend on the kind of surgery you had.

You may have bruising around your wound. This is normal. It will go away on its own. The skin around your incision may be a little red. This is normal, too.

DO NOT wear tight clothing that rubs against your incision while it heals.

The sutures (stitches) or staples will be removed about 7 to 10 days after surgery.

DO NOT shower until after your follow-up appointment with your health care provider. When you can shower, let water run over your incision, but DO NOT scrub it or let the water beat down on it. DO NOT soak in a bathtub, hot tub, or swimming pool until your doctor tells you to.

Changing your bandage

Keep your dressing (bandage) on your wound clean and dry.

You may change the dressing every day if your surgeon tells you so. Be sure to change your dressing if it gets dirty or wet.

Follow these steps when you change your dressing:

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water.
  • Remove the dressing carefully. DO NOT pull hard. If you need to, soak some of the dressing with sterile water or saline to help loosen it.
  • Soak some clean gauze with saline and wipe from one end of the incision to the other. DO NOT wipe back and forth over the same area.
  • Dry the incision the same way with clean, dry gauze. Wipe or pat in just one direction.
  • Check your wound for signs of infection. These include severe swelling, redness, and drainage that has bad odor.
  • Apply a new dressing the way you were shown.
  • Avoid touching and probing your incision.

Call your doctor if:

You see any of these changes around your incision:

  • More redness
  • More pain
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • The wound is larger or deeper
  • The wound looks dried out or dark

The drainage coming from or around your incision:

  • Does not decrease after 3 to 5 days
  • Is increasing
  • Becomes thick, tan, or yellow, or smells bad (pus)

Your temperature is above 100°F (37.7°C) for more than 4 hours or if you have chills.

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Review Date: 8/9/2018

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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