What You Should Know About Getting a Knee Replacement
A good knee joint is essential for mobility. When one or both knees start to limit even normal activities like walking, a physician may recommend a full or partial joint replacement. It’s a common procedure in this country. According to Johns Hopkins, over 700,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed in the United States each year.
Replacement surgery is an effective solution to eliminate the chronic pain that comes with joint degeneration due to illness or injury. If you’re considering knee replacement, here are a few things you need to know.
What Causes Knee Pain?
For most people, knee pain comes from osteoarthritis. The cartilage that covers the ends of the two bones where they connect to form the joint becomes worn. As a result, the bones grind together, causing inflammation, spur growth, pain and stiffness.
Osteoarthritis is often associated with aging and is especially prevalent in women. Injuries to a joint increase the risk of developing this common form of arthritis as does repetitive stress. If you work in a profession that requires you to bend at the knee often, you increase your odds of requiring a knee replacement at some point.
What Are the Different Types of Knee Replacements?
The goal of knee replacement surgery is to remove the diseased joint and replace it with an artificial one. It isn’t always necessary to replace the entire joint though. A partial knee replacement requires the surgeon to remove just a section of the knee and replace that component. This is known as a unicompartmental knee replacement.
A full knee replacement replaces all three joint structures:
- The femoral, or thigh bone, head
- The tibial, or lower leg bone, head
- The patella, or kneecap
The doctor will decide which surgery is appropriate for you based on the damage to each part of the joint. If the femoral head shows wear, but the tibia is healthy, you may only require a partial replacement. If both bone caps are damaged, then a full replacement is the most practical choice.
The surgeon has the option of using cement or a biological fixation to secure the replacement pieces. Biological fixation means the implant has a porous surface that grows into the bone to stabilize the new knee.
What Happens After Surgery?
The average hospital stay is three to five days. The staff will try to get you standing and moving the day after the surgery to facilitate the healing process and improve circulation. Initially, you’ll probably need support to walk, so you don’t put your full weight on the knee. After about six weeks, you can move without assistance.
Physical therapy (PT) is a critical part of the recovery plan. The doctor will prescribe outpatient PT for one to two months to help restore the muscle around the knee and support the joint. Over time, you can return to most of your normal activities with just a few limitations such as running and jumping.
What Are the Risks of Knee Replacement?
Knee replacement surgery poses the risk of infection and blood clots, but both risks are low. The doctor may give you antibiotics and blood thinners to reduce the chances of a problem. Seek medical attention if you begin to run a fever or if the incision site becomes red and inflamed. It’s normal to feel some pain, but pronounced swelling and discomfort are warning signs.
There are things you can do at home to lower the odds of complications as well.
- Avoid climbing stairs. Before the surgery, make arrangements to avoid stair use. Move your bed to the first level of your home and get a portable commode. If you must use the stairs, limit it to one or two times a day.
- Put away the recliner. Ideally, you will sit in a straight back chair. This limits the risk of injury to your new knee and improves circulation to your lower leg.
- Clear paths to common rooms like the kitchen and bathroom and remove any throw rugs that might trip you.
- Control your pet. Try to keep enthusiastic pets away until you heal.
Once you recover, you can enjoy activities such as golfing and bike riding that you missed out on due to knee pain. If your knees are creaking, it may be time to talk to your doctor about knee replacement.
WebMD, Knee Replacement Surgery for Arthritis Mayo Clinic, Knee Replacement, September 22, 2015 NIH Senior Health, Types of Knee Replacement The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Total Knee Replacement, August 2015
- Tags: arthritis
- Darla Ferrara