Knee Replacement (arthroplasty)

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Knee Replacement surgery resurfaces the parts of the knee joint that cause pain, stiffness, or immobility.

Understanding Knee Replacement

Knee replacement surgery is recommended after medicine, injection, and physical therapy stop working to relieve pain and immobility in the knee joints. Knee replacement is one of the most common types of surgery in the United States and is an effective way to relieve knee joint pain and stiffness.

The surgery requires general anesthesia, allowing you to be unconscious throughout the surgery. During a knee replacement surgery, the orthopedic surgeon will make an incision on the front part of the knee. Any damaged surfaces will be removed and replaced with artificial materials, either metal, plastic, or a combination. The artificial joint caps are cemented to the bone with surgical cement.

Knee replacement often involves the replacement of three key parts of the knee joint. The top of the shin bone (tibia), the bottom of the thigh bone (femur), and the bottom of the kneecap (patella) are all usually resurfaced at the site of the joint.


Types of Knee Replacement Surgery

Depending on the situation and reason for knee replacement surgery, there are generally four main approaches:

  • Total knee replacement- the thigh bone and shin bone are resurfaced
  • Partial knee replacement- one side of the knee joint can be resurfaced if the patient has strong knee ligaments
  • Kneecap replacement- only the kneecap (patella) is resurfaced
  • Complex Knee replacement- used in cases of severe damage to the joint or after multiple knee replacement surgeries

Reasons for Knee Replacement

Symptoms that lead to a knee replacement often include stiffness, soreness, and immobility. While the main reason doctors and patients choose knee replacement surgery is osteoarthritis, there are several others:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Deformities such as bowed legs
  • Knee injuries
  • Poor circulation in cases where blood stops flowing to the bones

Risks of Knee Replacement

Like all surgeries, knee replacement surgery poses some risks. While these risks are rare, it is important to discuss any concerns or previous health conditions with your doctor to minimize risks. Risks include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots in the legs or lungs
  • Loosening or wearing out of the artificial joint surfaces
  • Fracture
  • Continued pain or stiffness


After Knee Replacement

When you wake up from a knee replacement surgery, there will be bandages on your leg at the site of the surgery. You will have an IV with antibiotics and pain medication to reduce the risk of infection and help manage pain. Sometimes, you will have a drain bag on your knee to prevent fluid build-up. While in the hospital, you will begin physical therapy exercises. Some surgeons recommend a continuous passive motion device that moves your leg slowly. This device elevates your leg and improve circulation by moving your leg muscles.

A successful knee replacement surgery requires physical therapy. A patient must be disciplined to not only go to physical therapy appointments, but exercise the knee at home regularly.

One you are released from the hospital, typically 2-3 days after surgery, you will need to rest for several weeks following the surgery. Before knee replacement surgery, arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital and to help you around your home for at least a few days. You may require certain modifications to prevent falling and damaging the new joint. Some modifications can include:

  • Handrails along stairs
  • A shower bench or chair
  • A raised toilet seat
  • A reaching stick to grab objects on the floor
  • Removing any tripping hazards such as loose carpeting
  • Avoiding stairs until your doctor approves


Orthopedic Surgeons

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