How long does it take to recover from an osteotomy? | Joint Preservation / Osteotomy Surgery FAQs

Written by Mr Bilal Barkatali

All your osteotomy questions answered. How long does it take to recover from an osteotomy? Is an osteotomy painful? Read the full blog post now.

The back of a white man's legs while he is running in the rain

Table Contents

How long does it take to recover from an osteotomy?

A successful osteotomy requires the bone to heal in the new correct alignment. Bone healing is a process that usually takes around 12 weeks for a tibia or femur. Sometimes the healing can be slower or faster depending on patient factors.

There are 4 phases of recovery:

1.    Immediate post-operative: You will be in hospital until it is safe to be discharged home. This can be anywhere between 1 and 2 days. Everyone recovers at different speeds. We want to make sure you can walk; your blood results are healthy and that you have no issues before being able to confidently.

2.    Early recovery: For the first 6 weeks of the recovery, the knee is usually painful and swollen. The skin clips or sutures are removed at 2 weeks. You are encouraged to walk with crutches and get the knee moving as much as possible. When you’re not exercising, keep the knee elevated and regularly iced, to keep the swelling down. You will be seen by your surgeon at 6 weeks in the clinic, and if all is progressing well, then full weight bearing can start.

 3.    Medium to Long term: From 6 – 12 weeks onwards ,the knee should start to feel good. The majority of the pain and swelling is settled, and any residual mild swelling and discomfort usually settles down over the coming weeks and months. We continue to monitor patients with x-rays and clinical assessments until they are completely satisfied with the result after surgery.

4.    Long term: After around a year from the initial surgery, a small operation to remove the plate is carried out. This completes the treatment and patients feel much better once the plate is out.

Is an osteotomy a painful operation?

An osteotomy isa significant and invasive operation. An incision must be made in the tibia or femur which does result in pain and swelling after the operation. This is however completely normal, and we use the latest enhanced recovery techniques to ensure that your pain is well under control.

How long does it take to perform an osteotomy operation?

The actual surgery takes around 60 to 90 minutes depending on the complexity of the case.However the overall time between leaving the Ward and returning to your bed is usually around four to six hours. this is due to the transit time, the time taken to perform the anaesthesia, and also the time spent in recovery after the operation.

Is the operation done under a general anaesthetic or spinal anaesthesia?

The ideal scenario is to have a short spinal anaesthetic with sedation. The sedation allows the patient to be completely asleep during the operation without any awareness and the spinal anaesthetic stops the feeling of any pain.

Previously, these procedures were performed under general anaesthetic (GA)which requires the administration of high quantities of intravenous anaesthetic agents which can result in nausea, vomiting and other side effects which are undesirable.

Sometimes the patient is unable to have spinal anaesthesia or wishes not to do so in which case we can easily proceed with a safe general anaesthetic (GA).

When will the stitches or clips be removed and by whom?

The stitches or clips removed at 2 weeks following the surgery. This is carried out in the community by the district nurse or the GP practise and we will organise this for you so you don't have to worry.

How soon can I drive after surgery?

The recommended time to get back to driving is 6 WEEKS.

We would always recommend being sensible and going back to driving when you are able to walk without pain or discomfort and therefore able to safely control your vehicle. This may sometimes take longer than six weeks and sometimes less than six weeks. 

How soon can I go back to work?

For desk-based jobs, you may return to work at around 6 WEEKS.

For more manual or strenuous jobs, it may take up to 12 WEEKS.

How long does an osteotomy last?

On average an HTO (high tibial osteotomy) has good to excellent results in 85% of patients after 10 years and beyond. The result depends on the accuracy of the correction and the progression of OA in the rest of the knee.

Can I run after an osteotomy?

The great beauty of an osteotomy is that you get to keep your own knee, which means that you may return to the same level of activity after the operation but with a relatively pain free knee.

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