Your knee is the largest joint in your body, which makes it vulnerable to injury and other problems. Sports, exercise, and general wear and tear can cause muscle strains, tendinitis, and more serious injuries. When medications and other treatments can’t keep your knee pain at a manageable level, your orthopedics team may recommend surgery to replace the knee joint.
Knee replacement surgery, also called knee arthroplasty, is a procedure that replaces a worn or damaged knee with an artificial implant – also known as a prosthesis. If you have severe knee damage due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis or have had injuries that have led to irreversible damage to the knee, knee replacement surgery may be appropriate.
Knee Replacement Options
If knee surgery is necessary, your orthopedic surgeons will help you determine what procedure is right for you. Total knee replacement is the standard treatment for advanced osteoarthritis and uses plastic and metal inserts to replace bone and cartilage in the medial, lateral, and kneecap.
While total knee replacements are more common, many patients with chronic knee pain undergo partial knee replacement surgery. This type of surgery is appropriate for patients with localized damage to one part of the knee joint. This surgery replaces the damaged area but leaves healthy areas intact; usually done on the inside or medial section of the knee, it is also done on the lateral or outside section. The partial knee replacement surgery involves smaller incisions and faster recovery but, in the future, you may be a candidate for a total knee replacement.
Many total knee or partial knee replacements can be minimally invasive – they use smaller and fewer incisions around the knee, may cause less postoperative pain and help reduce recovery time. Candidates for minimally invasive knee replacements may have minimal to moderate damage, maintain a healthy weight, have few pre-existing health conditions, and are ready and willing to participate in the rehabilitation process.
Is Knee Replacement Right for Me?
Orthopedic specialists will look at a wide range of factors including overall health, response to previous treatment, and severity of symptoms when deciding which knee surgery is right for you. Knee replacement may be right for you if you are experiencing severe pain that keeps you from enjoying your life, you can’t fully move your knee, and your symptoms don’t improve with non-surgical treatment such as anti-inflammatory pain medication or physical therapy.
What to Expect After Surgery
Normally a knee replacement surgery will take two to three hours. After surgery, you will spend one to two days in the hospital. Physical therapy will begin a few hours after surgery and after a short hospital stay, most patients return home with a cane. All patients will have access to a customized rehabilitation plan to assist in recovering full strength, mobility, and range of motion. Most patients return to normal activities such as walking and biking in a few months.
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