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Knee Replacement

What Is a Knee Replacement?

Total knee replacement surgery is an option for you if medications are no longer enough to ease your pain. More than 600,000 of these surgeries are performed on the knees every year in the United States, and it is known as the most effective surgery in the medical world. It is also extremely safe.

Different Types of Artificial Knee Surgeries

Total Knee Replacement: Knee replacement surgery also goes by the name of “knee arthroplasty.” During this surgery, the orthopedic surgeon removes all of the damaged surfaces of the tibia and the femur. A small amount of bone will need to be removed at this time as well. The surgeon covers these areas with a metal prosthesis. The kneecap may also need to be resurfaced. If so, the surgeon will replace the area that has been removed with a plastic prosthesis. Lastly, the surgeon places a medical-grade spacer in between the metal components so that every part can slide freely against the other.

Partial Knee Replacement: The orthopedic surgeon may perform this surgery if only a portion of the knee is showing signs of damage. The surgeon removes the portion of the knee that has damage, and a prosthesis will replace the damaged area.

Why Get a Knee Arthroplasty?

Osteoarthritis damages knee joints, and this damage cannot be reversed. The cartilage that protects the bones and keeps them from rubbing against each other wears down when a person has this condition, and it causes pain. Many symptoms develop with this condition, and they include the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bone Spurs
  • Popping or Cracking Sounds
  • Inflexibility
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness

The procedure will be recommended for you if your pain or stiffness makes it extremely difficult for you to walk more than a few steps at a time, climb the stairs, or get in or out of chairs. If you are experiencing moderate pain when you are sitting or lying down, you are a candidate for knee arthroplasty. If you have chronic inflammation and swelling of the knee and cannot relieve these symptoms with medication, knee arthroplasty may be recommended for you. If physical therapy, lubricating injections, cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory medications are not improving your symptoms, you will also be considered for knee arthroplasty.

Patients diagnosed with severe degenerative joint disease have difficulties bending their knees, so they cannot easily walk or climb the stairs. Because they have unstable joints, they often lose control of their knees. Their knees also experience swelling, and they may be able to have knee arthroplasty to correct this problem.

Degenerative joint disease can also occur after an injury or because of rheumatoid arthritis. Also, knees that have torn cartilage, torn ligaments or fractures are also susceptible to damage in the knee joint. These conditions can lead to the irreversible damage that can only be relieved by knee arthroplasty.

How Painful Is a Total Knee Replacement?

The anesthesia team will work to ensure that you are completely comfortable during the procedure. Before the surgery, the team may decide to administer general anesthesia that will put you to sleep before the orthopedic surgeon begins to operate. In some cases, the optimal choice is to give you a spinal epidural or a regional nerve block anesthesia that will numb your lower body and keep you awake. You will have the opportunity to express your wishes for the type of anesthesia you would like to have before the operation begins.

After the anesthesia wears off, you will begin to experience pain, but this is normal because it is part of the healing process. Your physician will prescribe a short-term pain reliever, and these may be local anesthetics, NSAIDs, or opioids.


What Is the Process Like?

After the nurse positions you on the operating table, an intravenous line will be placed in your arm or hand. The nurse will also shave the excess hair off of the surgical site and cleanse the area. The anesthesiologist will be with you the entire time monitoring your blood oxygen level, breathing, blood pressure and heart rate.

Now, you are ready for the surgeon to make an incision in your knee, remove the damaged areas and replace them with the prosthesis. The surgeon closes the incision with staples or stitches. They may attach a drain that will remove excess fluid and apply a sterile bandage.

How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Knee Arthroplasty?

After the procedure, you will only be in the recovery room for one or two hours. Then, you will be taken to your hospital room where you will remain for about two days. While you are in the hospital, the nurses will make sure that you move your foot and ankle so that your blood can flow to your leg muscles. This will help keep the area from swelling and blood clots from forming. You will receive blood thinners to further decrease the risk of a blood clot and support hose to prevent swelling and clotting. At this time, you will be required to perform breathing exercises and engage in an increased number of activities.

The day after your surgery, it will be time to begin exercising your knee, and a physical therapist will show you how to do this. You will continue with your physical therapy after you leave the hospital.

What Is the Best Age to Have a Knee Arthroplasty?

People are welcome to have a knee arthroplasty at any age. Whether or not you will be approved for this surgery will depend on the amount of pain you are experiencing and whether or not your condition is debilitating. A majority of the people who have this surgery are between the ages of 50 and 80, but there are exceptions. For example, a teenager diagnosed with juvenile arthritis had this surgery, and an elderly patient with degenerative arthritis had the operation as well.

Is Knee Arthroplasty a Major Operation?

Knee arthroplasty is a major operation because the orthopedic surgeon enters the body and removes a portion of the tissue. Because it is a major surgery, patients may experience complications, but complications are very rare. If you have a chronic illness, the likelihood of complications will be a little higher for you.

Some of the complications include the following:

Blood clots: The most common complication for this type of surgery is the blood clot, and they are dangerous because if they break off, they may end up in your lungs. This can be prevented, and your orthopedic surgeon will do his or her best to ensure that this doesn’t happen by elevating your legs, administering blood thinners, giving you support stockings and providing you with leg exercises that will increase the circulation of your blood.

Injury to the Nerves: This rarely happens, but there is a slight chance that the nerves around the area could be damaged during the surgery. When this occurs, you may experience weakness or numbness.

Pain: A limited number of patients experience pain after their surgeries, but this is very rare.

Complications with Implants:
Designers are always improving knee implants, but there is still the chance that they can become damaged due to wear and tear. Portions of the implant may also become loose or move entirely out of place. If you have extensive scarring, it can prevent the implant from allowing you to obtain the 115 degree movement that the manufacturer promises after the surgery. This is of particular concern for you if you are experiencing limited motion before you have surgery.

Infection: The wound or the tissue around the prosthesis may develop an infection. Sometimes, people develop infections while they are in the hospital, but they can also develop them several years after they had their surgeries. If the infection is minor, it can be treated with antibiotics. Surgery and implant removal will be reserved for the most severe infections.

What Should I Avoid after Knee Arthroplasty?

You should avoid performing your daily activities for at least three weeks, but it wouldn’t be unusual for you to need to rest for six weeks. You will not be able to drive until your physician informs you that you are ready to do so. Before you are fully recovered, you must avoid biking, golfing, swimming and walking. You will need to avoid jumping, skiing, jogging, tennis and sports that require contact. A fall could damage your new joint, so you must avoid anything that could result in a fall. You may need to walk with a cane or a walker until you are completely recovered.


How Long Does It Take to Heal from Knee Arthroplasty?

After about six weeks have passed, you will be able to return to all of your regular activities, but most people need between four and six months to one year to fully recover. At that time, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of having had knee arthroplasty. In most cases, the surgery relieves knee pain and allows patients to enjoy a better quality of life. They also notice that they have an increased range of motion.

You can experience a better outcome after you arrive home if you do some home modifications. For example, placing a raised toilet seat in your bathrooms, using a long-handled shoehorn and refraining from climbing the stairs are just three things that will ensure that you are as comfortable as possible. If you aren’t ready to have knee arthroplasty, you can seek non-surgical options for joint pain by contacting MacKensie SDI. If you would like to explore your knee pain relief options, click on the link to be taken to the MacKensie SDI website.