The knee is the largest joint in the body and having healthy knees is required to perform most everyday activities.
You may require knee surgery if your knee has structural damage.
Doctors usually recommend knee replacement only if other less invasive treatments have failed. First-line treatment options include:
There are various types of knee surgery. The type of surgery that a person requires will depend on the damage to the knee joint.
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that involves making a small cut in the skin over the knee, inserting a small light, and using small instruments to diagnose and treat knee problems, including:
This is an operation that involves the surgeon cutting, reshaping, and repositioning the bones to take some weight off the damaged part of the knee. This procedure is carried out to help correct a broken bone that has not healed properly.
This is the most common type of knee surgery for arthritis. The operation involves replacing the whole joint. Surgeons only undertake total knee replacement surgery as a last resort, often when the joint is irreparable, the damage interferes with everyday life, and other treatments do not alleviate the pain.
During the procedure, a surgeon will remove the joint and replace it with one made from metal, ceramic, or plastic.
Key factors in determining if you’re a good candidate for knee joint replacement include:
Since the life of a replaced joint is normally 15-20 years, Knee surgery is recommended for people over the age of 55. Younger people who have their knees replaced may outlive their artificial knees and may need a revision.
If you choose surgery, a physician anesthesiologist will prevent you from feeling pain during the operation. As pain management specialists, physician anesthesiologists also play a key role in pain relief and recovery after surgery. This postsurgical pain relief is critical for effective participation in physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Before surgery, your doctor will assess your overall health and anesthesia risks. This evaluation will include:
You can expect to walk with the aid of crutches or a walker for several weeks. Before surgery, you should prepare your home to accommodate your recovery:
When it’s time for your surgery, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown and will get an IV to provide you fluids and nutrients during the surgery. Just before the surgery, you will be given anesthesia.
The procedure lasts between 1-2 hours. Your surgeon will make a long surgical cut above your knee. With the skin and muscle pulled back, they will remove the damaged cartilage and bone.
The new knee joint will be affixed to your femur, or thighbone, and tibia, which is the main bone in your lower leg. This will be done using specialized cement, pins, and screws. Afterward, your surgeon will seal the incision wound with stitches and apply a bandage.
You will be transferred to the recovery room where a team can monitor your vital signs
After the surgery, your leg will feel stiff and you will experience some pain and discomfort. Receiving painkillers through your vein, or intravenously, can help manage this pain. You may receive long-acting local anesthetics at the time of surgery or possibly a nerve block to help with postoperative pain. You will also receive medication to prevent your blood from clotting.
Most people begin physical therapy on the day of surgery or the day after, to promote blood flow to the tissues around the new knee. Your surgeon may recommend using a continuous passive motion machine. This is a special brace-like device that continuously moves your knee in a gentle bending motion.
Your surgeon will let you know when it’s best to leave the hospital. This is based on the results of the surgery and your condition.
Following your surgery, you will need to undergo considerable physical therapy. Your surgeon and physical therapy team will design a program that’s right for you.
Every medical procedure carries the risk of bleeding, blood clots, and infection. Your doctor will explain these risks and what you can do to minimize them. The possibility of complications is very low if you take necessary precautions.
Complications associated with knee replacement surgery include:
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience the following symptoms:
Infection is an ongoing concern for people who receive artificial joints. As bacteria and other contaminants regularly flow through your blood, they can infect your artificial knee. If you have a knee infection, your doctor may have to remove part of or the whole artificial knee to treat the infection before they can implant one again.