If you’re thinking about knee replacement surgery, there are some things to consider before making a final decision. Learn the facts about knee replacement surgery.
Knee replacement surgery can often mean walking again with little or no pain. But you’ll need to spend time and effort to get to that painless zone. If you are thinking about having knee replacement surgery (arthroplasty), there are several key points to consider:
- You’ll need to follow a physical rehabilitation plan for several weeks after surgery to get the full benefit from your artificial knee.
- Artificial knees wear out too, usually in 10 to 20 years. After surgery, your doctor will suggest that you continue to exercise regularly. But you may have to avoid running and other high-impact activities.
- Your doctor will recommend that you keep your weight down. Being overweight can wear out an artificial knee before its time.
- While the surgery works for many people, in some cases it doesn’t improve range of motion or get rid of the pain. In the worst cases, there are complications like infection or nerve damage. Sometimes, the surgery needs to be redone.
It’s important to find a doctor that you feel has the experience to do this complex surgery. Ask your doctor about what you can realistically expect after surgery.
Your doctor will assess whether a knee replacement will work for you. He or she will consider these factors:
- Your age (although knee replacement can be done in people of any age)
- Your general health
- Your pain
- How much your bad knee limits your life, such as making it hard to walk and climb stairs
This surgery is usually considered only after you have tried other methods to relieve symptoms. This includes medication and physical therapy.
What is knee replacement?
Knee replacement helps reduce pain and restore function to your knee joint. Surgery is done to remove damaged cartilage and bone in your knee joint and replace them with an artificial joint (prosthesis) made of metal and plastic. Knee replacements can be done in various ways:
- In the most traditional kind, total knee replacement, your entire knee joint is replaced. Surgery is done under general anesthesia and usually takes a few hours.
- First, the damaged end of the femur (thigh bone) is shaved and reshaped. Measurements are taken to ensure the correct fit, then a metal implant is cemented to it.
- Next, the same procedure is done on the tibia (shin bone). A plastic implant is then added. This helps support weight and allows the ends of the femur and tibia to move freely against each other.
- Finally, a precisely measured plastic implant is fitted and cemented onto the back of the knee cap (patella). This keeps it moving smoothly over the other parts.
- Less common is partial or unicompartmental (often called “uni”) knee replacement. Here, only one part of your knee joint is removed and replaced with a unicompartmental knee implant. This may be done if only one area of your knee joint is damaged. It is not recommended for younger, active people, because it may not bear up under extreme stress.
- Newer developments in knee replacement surgery include:
- Minimally invasive knee replacement. Here, a total knee replacement can be done with several smaller incisions causing less pain, a shorter hospital stay and less rehabilitation. More study is needed, though, to determine whether this kind of surgery is as effective and risk-free as the traditional surgery.
- Quadriceps-sparing surgery. This protects the quadriceps, tendons and four muscles in the front of the thigh that are attached to the knee cap. The quadriceps are needed for walking, running, jumping and squatting.
- Gender-smart knee prosthetics. These are designed to fit the shape and size of a woman’s knee for better function.
What can you expect from knee replacement?
Knee replacement can help restore your mobility and reduce your pain. Many people who have knee replacement enjoy a dramatic increase in their ability to perform the tasks of daily living. The results can significantly improve your quality of life, but you must do your part:
- Research the types of knee replacements available. Also do research to find the right surgeon. Choose one with a good deal of experience with the type of implant and surgery you are having. Ask your family doctor to recommend a surgeon.
- Talk with other people who have had knee replacements. It may help you understand the commitment it entails. Hearing their experiences may give you a clearer picture of what to expect from the surgery.
- Make post-surgery preparations, such as installing bathtub handrails and a toilet seat riser. Also make sure you’ll have someone to help you with daily activities during your recovery period.
Deciding whether or not knee replacement is right for you is a complicated process. Carefully consider all the aspects of it and talk with your doctor before you make up your mind.