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Should My Knee Be Numb After Surgery?

Kathy Weber M.D., M.S.
Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine and Women's Sports Medicine
Rush University Medical Center
Chicago, IL
TAGS: Knee, Recovery, Sport/Injury, Injuries Treatment

It has been more than two years since my right knee replacement surgery and I am still numb a total of about one to two inches from center of knee up & down.  Should the right side of my knee still be numb?

It is not uncommon for individuals after a knee replacement or other surgeries to have permanent residual numbness around the incision area.

The nerves near your skin are minute and, therefore, it is impossible to perform a surgical procedure without cutting them.

While the nerves in the Central Nervous System (those in the brain and spine) cannot repair themselves, the nerves in the Peripheral Nervous System (such as those around the incision in your knee) can.  Therefore, many patients' nerves will repair themselves and the patient will regain feeling around the incision area.  As the nerves slowly heal and sensation comes back, patients might experience temporary itching, tingling, and even slight pain in the area.

However, nerve regrowth and repair is neither guaranteed nor perfect.  Some patients only regain partial feeling while others won’t regain any feeling at all.  When nerves don't heal perfectly, patients may experience odd sensations such as tingling or "pins and needles" in the vicinity of the incision area or persistent numbness.

In general, nerve tissue is the slowest tissue to heal in the human body.  It may take anywhere from a couple of weeks to twenty-gour months for these nerves to heal and sensation to return to the affected area.  The duration of time depends on a number of factors, among which are severity of the nerve damage, age of the patient, and potentially other medical conditions.

Since it has been over two years, your numbness may be permanent, which is not uncommon.  However, if you are still concerned about your knee, you may want to speak with your surgeon or another physician who can examine the area.


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